The Ana Bella Foundation uses Co-Creation to help abused women

The Ana Bella Foundation supports women having suffered from domestic violence with a peer-to-peer approach and a co-creation process. Their crucial goal is the re-insertion into the labour market of the afflicted women in cooperation with companies, in particular Danone. Ana Bella Estevez – herself a survivor of domestic violence and Ashoka Fellow – received the Vision Award, granted each year at the Vision Summit for succesful co-creation projects.

One in three women has already fallen victim to physical or sexual violence. In Germany, 22% of the surveyed women report having been victim of domestic violence, as shows an EU wide survey by the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA).

Also Ana Bella Estevez suffered under her violent husband for eleven years before she had the courage to take her four kids and leave him and report him to the police – a step that only few women have the courage to take: Only 14% report the most severe case of partner violence to the police. Domestic violence therefore becomes an invisible problem that is not talked about. „Not even my family knew what was going on“, says Ana Bella Estevez. In order to break this vicious circle, she not only turned to the police but also the media in order to encourage other women to follow suit. She appeared on Spanish television in 2002 – not as victim, as she stresses, but as a survivor who has proven her strength and who wants to motivate those who suffer the same. She doesn’t like how abused women are portrayed in the media which usually only show the physical consequences of abuses like black eyes, scars or crying women with hidden faces or killed women. „If you’re abused and you see that on TV you will not go to the police to end like that: scared to death or dead,“, she says.

Her TV appearance caused a deluge of telephone calls of other abused women and the idea to create a peer-to-peer network was born. Ana Bella got into contact with some of them in order to help other affected women and their informal support led to the creation of the Fundacíon Ana Bella in 2006. The Foundation today comprises a network of 120 women helping around 1200 women a year breaking the silence to start a new and happy life.

Beside broad awareness raising (via "Testimonios Positivos") and prevention campaigns, the foundation focuses on the labour market integration of abused women and, as a first step, provides them with low-threshold offers. In a whatsapp group, for example, women suffering violence can exchange with „survivor women“ who can encourage them to take the important step and leave their violent husbands. Ana Bella Estevez' now plans the global scale-up of such offers via an online platform and an app available to women worldwide thanks to the support of Trafigura Foundation. For women who have suffered domestic violence themselves understand best how other abused women feel and can motivate them to go to the police and support them during the first time after they leave their husbands. Once, Ana Bella Estevez received a phone call from a woman who had left her husband after he had violently attacked her with a screwdriver. She cried and told her how much she missed her husband. „Nobody who hasn't been in the same situation can understand this,“ explains Ana Bella Estevez who encouraged the woman to hold on and not to go back to her husband.

Labour market integration as the essential step from "Victim" to "Survivor"

Ana Bella Estevez wants to help the women to focus on their strength as survivors in order to support their (re-)integration into the labour market. Many of the affected women don't have a job or profession. Accordingly, they lack economic independence and – as a result of the years of oppression – often also self-confidence, another major obstacle for leaving their husbands.

The social entrepreneur started with a catering service, through which she could employ 30 women. Ashoka then facilitated the cooperation with Danone: After a pilot run in 2011, 210 women could be trained as Danone Brand Ambassadors. What was important to Ana Bella Estevez was that the women were trained to release their full potential and put it into praxis in a socially valuable and visible job. As brand ambassadors they are not employed in the sense of a positive discrimination but because of their personal qualities and strengths as survivors.
Not only Ana Bella Estevez, also Danone is happy with the result: The feedback from Danone's sales forces is 97% positive. As a result, the Ana Bella Social School for Women Empowerment and Momentum Task Force (the outsourcing partner company) received the Danone supplier of the year award 2012.

Thanks to the job offer the women achieve economic independence and strengthen their self-esteem. Alongside their training they also receive coachings to recognise their personal strengths. The position as brand ambassador then often turns out to be their entry-level job and an opportunity to get a foot in the door of the labour market. One of the brand ambassadors for example now opens up her own restaurant. Accordingly, there's a „positive fluctuation“ (at least 30% is the aim), that is, after their contract with Danone ends, they move on to a new professional challenge. This allows more women to profit from the brand ambassador training as a stepping stone for their further professional development.

Another positive effect of the brand ambassadors: „The 'survivor women' have an eye for the half hidden bruises of other women suffering domestic violence and can approach them on this in the supermarket queue,“ explains Ana Bella Estevez, pointing to another important aspect of their social and labour market integration: If these women who have suffered abuse don't remain socially excluded but become visible parts of society, they can change society from within – no big campaigns necessary.


Further Information:

Contact Ana Bella Estevez: anabella[at]

More on the co-creation process between the Fundacíon Ana Bella, Danone and Momentum Task Force:


Text: Nina Roßmann

Foto credit: Vision Summit


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