The Women of Color Network (WOCN) is a nationwide group of women dedicated to eliminating violence against women and families. It was founded in 1997 by a group of women of color from across the country and led by staff from the National Resource Center on Domestic Violence (NRCDV), a project of the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Domestic Violence. NRCDV wanted to establish a means of addressing the challenges that women of color advocates and activists faced within the violence against women movement.
As noted on WOCN’s Web site, the mission of WOCN is “to provide and enhance leadership capacity and resources that promote the activities of advocates and activists of color within the Tribal Nations, the United States and U.S. Territories toward the elimination of violence against women and families.” Leadership is regarded within WOCN as a vehicle for obtaining decision-making and executive roles throughout the movement, therefore enriching and expanding the dialogue, institutional and public policy, and ultimately service provision to all communities.
Statistics show that African American, Asian and Pacific Islander, Hispanic and Latina, and Native and Alaskan Indian women experience intimate partner violence (IPV) at levels equal to Caucasian women, but in numbers that affect more women within their respective communities. Evidence shows that such issues as economics, education, immigration, language access, and ongoing institutional and societal inequities not only deepen the victimization for individuals of color but also create more barriers to seeking and obtaining safety. Advocates of color bring intrinsic knowledge of these barriers that is needed within violence against women programs to reach these communities.
There also is a need for partnership and collaboration with such community-based entities as faith institutions and economic development projects, as well as a connection between men and women of color to ensure holistic, culturally relevant approaches to obtaining violence-free living. WOCN nurtures and promotes the brokering of these relationships.
Unique programming within WOCN centers on mentoring, a strategy proven to ensure the sharing of knowledge and thus build stronger capacity. To date, there have been over 100 mentors who have assisted over 300 individual mentees across the nation in developing their own programs, moving into leadership roles, and strengthening community outreach. Information exchange and networking is central to all WOCN activities and products whether through a series of teleconferences, regional meetings, focus groups, list serves, or newsletters.
The work of WOCN is defined by a group of women of color advisors from around the country to ensure accountability and authenticity of approach and is administered and implemented by a women-of color staff. The work is also defined by partnerships with other local, state, and national communities of color organizations.
Women of color advocates and activists within WOCN are ultimately fortified with the knowledge that they are their own best resources and are authorities over their own experience. They are encouraged to embrace each other across cultures and ethnicities, age, sexual orientation, and ability to build a strong coalition. WOCN continues to grow and will be a vital organization for years to come.
- Women of Color Network. (n.d.). Women of Color Network facts and stats collection: Domestic violence and communities of color. Retrieved from http://www.doj.state.or.us/victims/pdf/women_of_color_network_facts_domestic_violence_2006.pdf
- Women of Color Network. (n.d.). Women of Color Network facts and stats collection: Sexual violence and communities of color. Retrieved from http://www.doj.state.or.us/victims/pdf/women_of_color_network_facts_sexual_violence_2006.pdf
- Women of Color Network: http://www.wocninc.org/
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