No person can be defined in one word. We are beautifully complex creatures, shaped by the place we are born, people we meet and situations we encounter.
Yet for some women, the way they are treated and defined is determined only by their gender. One in three women or girls will experience violence in their lifetime simply because they are female. These women are trapped within their definition, a definition that only considers one aspect of who they are.
But we are not what other people say we are. We are not what the world thinks we are. We are what God knows us to be.
God created us all in his image. When he looks at us he sees his children, unique yet equally loved and valued.
Friday 25 November is the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women – a day to raise awareness, and mobilise people everywhere to bring about change and equality for women and girls.
The Salvation Army is working with women around the world to equip and empower them to challenge their oppression and redefine what it means to be a woman in societies where such a label leads to limitations.
We want to challenge the incomplete definitions that limit the opportunities that women and girls are given, restrict the rights they are afforded and affect the way they are treated.
I am a business owner and have three daughters. Seven years ago, I learnt that they had been abused in their childhood by my brother-in-law. It was very painful. My two older daughters only disclosed the abuse after many years.
I was sad because I also thought that I would lose my sister over this as it was her husband. [Together], my daughters made a police report. It was a very difficult, hard and painful time.
I looked for help so that I could accept what had happened, and I found out in the newspaper about The Salvation Army’s therapy group. I started by having a few sessions with staff at [the centre] and they also came to my house. I couldn’t believe the response and support.
My sister did not believe my daughters. With the help of a lawyer, I sued my brother-in-law and he got seven years in prison, but he was only there for a couple of months.
As children, both I and my sisters were victims of violence ourselves. But we grew up with everyone around us saying, ‘Family is family. Don’t break the family.’
Part of this journey has been realising that, if I want to help my daughters, I need to help myself. I started coming to the group 18 months ago. When I got here, I found that my case was not unusual. I didn’t want to bring this to light because I thought it wasn’t normal. I can see the pattern of violence now. Violent childhood. Violent husband. Children violated.
It’s not easy for me… I had to fight against society who did not believe me. I had to fight to support my children.
This group supports me. I feel useful, I feel that I can help someone else by sharing my story and showing that change is possible. But I also understand that it’s not easy for women. We need to know that there are other people going through the same trials and it’s possible to get out.
The Salvation Army is working alongside women through projects in places like Argentina, Bangladesh and Pakistan, empowering them to rebuild their confidence, develop leadership skills and restore their dignity and strength.
By supporting the Redefined campaign, you can help other women like Isabella to overcome their experiences in a safe environment, understand their rights and redefine themselves as equal and active members of society.
Find out more about the campaign, donate and download resources at www.salvationarmy.org.uk/redefined.