buse is a virus capable of killing a person from the inside and from which it is not easy to escape. Ana Bella recognizes that she did not have guts until, after 11 years of abuse, her ex-husband almost killed her. It was September 13th, 2001, and she had no choice but to summon up the courage, escape with her four children and report him to the police. A decision with which she only intended to save her life and that, over time, led her to create the Ana Bella Foundation.
Now, this foundation has an international network of more than 15,000 survivors of abuse and its function is to help others break their silence, start a new life and find jobs that empower them, that move them away from social exclusion. And it is precisely the socio-labour insertion the reason why this year the Ana Bella Foundation has received the “la Caixa” Award for Social Innovation.
“Given a certain business need, we offer a social response that generates a systemic change: survivor women are not a problem to solve, we are effective workers and agents of change“, says Ana Bella when talking about the project, which has already given work to 2,130 women.
Then, she explains that the most important thing is that, after training them in sales techniques, they find them jobs as saleswomen in which they can thrive, unlike many jobs that tend to be offered from other areas (cleaners, kitchen assistants or floor maids). “Those jobs are just as proper as any other, but we prefer jobs in which they interact publicly, not just those that make us invisible“, Ana Bella says, making it clear that their initiative has given them economic independence and the opportunity to love themselves in a way that, probably, they had not felt for too long.
“Many of us have received messages from abusers such as “you’re worthless” or “you’re going to sink without me”. And their work shows these women that they do not need them, that they own value for themselves“, says Ana Bella about a confidence that has led some to progress in her own company and others to grow, unstoppable, until they reach the work of their dreams: opening restaurants, beauty centres or travel agencies.
Walking proof of the power granted by the Ana Bella Foundation to these women is Gloria, who was able to trust herself at 62 years old. Gloria sold yogurts in shopping centres, and Ana Bella made her see that if the clients and the company believed in her abilities, she had no reason not to do so. So, over time, Gloria decided to go to university and, later, to find an NGO to help elderly people who live in solitude, the Asociación Voluntariado Mairena del Aljarafe. Voluntarios en Acción.
Showing the strength of abuse survivors is another of the objectives of the Ana Bella Foundation. Schools, congresses, media and any space that functions as speaker are the scenarios where they have told their stories of improvement, so that other women dare to start a life without mistreatment an realize, no matter how complicated their situation might be, that they can also be happy. The message of Ana Bella for all of them is encouraging: “You have to be more afraid and more courageous to sleep every night with a man who is mistreating you than starting a new life. They have already achieved the courage by enduring the abuse, they only need to redirect it”. The force, in these women, lies in their inwardness and it’s infinite.
Text: Alba Losada
Illustration: p.nitas *
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