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Institutions unite against violence: help is now available in the libraries

From now on women readers can find key information about violence against women printed on the paper bookmarks. They are given for free in the libraries and bookshops. Around 70 thousand bookmarks had already been distributed in all over Lithuania. According to the organizers, the success of the initiative inspired them to print one more set of bookmarks to spread the message as wide as possible.

Domestic men’s violence against women is a hidden problem that shouldn’t be ignored in our society. The Equal Opportunities Ombudsperson's Office along with partners is searching for different ways to reach out to women who have suffered from it. “If a woman suffers from violence from her husband or partner, it is likely that every step will be controlled by him. These bookmarks will be placed in the books most read by women. That’s our way to provide information about the help discreetly,” says Mintautė Jurkutė, the head of the project “Stop Violence Against Women”.

Particular attention was paid to smaller cities of Lithuania. “In the big cities, especially in Vilnius, we have become accustomed to see many awareness raising campaigns. Meantime, those who are living in smaller cities and towns rarely see anything like that in their region. Reading books is quite popular form of spending leisure time. That’s why the distribution of bookmarks has social potential. We hope to reach women who are hardly reachable by social networks, television video clips, and outdoor advertising,” claims Jurkutė.

Public libraries showed a strong interest concerning the bookmarks campaign.. Tomas Pauliuščenka, an information specialist at Povilas Višinskis Public Library of Šiauliai, emphasizes that violence against women is a global problem and his city is not an exception. "It’s very important to feel the support of the society because usually women feel shameful to talk about violence," comments Pauliuščenka.

As Jurkutė assured, the cooperation with libraries will help to expand the list of safe spaces. The more agencies spread the message that violence is a public health issue, the better situation is.

Library is more than informational center

The bookmarks introduce the forms of violence and indicate where useful information can be found. They had already reached the bookshops such as “Pegasas”, “Vaga” and “Knygos.lt”. Furthermore, the bookmarks are being distributed in various cities of Lithuania: Vilnius, Kaunas, Rokiškis, Kretinga, Ukmergė, Raseiniai, Panevėžys, Anykščiai, Zarasai, Biržai, Jonava, Klaipėda, Telšiai, Šiauliai.

The libraries and the bookshops were chosen because most of their customers are women. For instance, Kaunas Municipal Vincas Kudirka Public Library has twice as much registered women users than men. Every month women take around 36 thousand library’s books. The manager of cultural activities Monika Straupytė states that the library has a large network of divisions, thus it may reach even those people who live in the most distant districts.

She says that the modern library is a multifunctional space that combines both traditional and innovative services. “Last year we implemented the project “Art for Changes”. The main idea of the project was to integrate art activities together with bibliotherapy specifically for women in crisis. The project was funded by the Lithuanian Council of Culture, integrating art therapy activities”, saysStraupytė.  Furthermore, the library established a self-help group for mothers with small children. The children play under the care of a librarian, while their mothers relax and share concerns.

Pauliuščenka also agrees that libraries have been trying to get out of traditional spaces and take less traditional activities such as awareness raising campaigns, educational initiatives, and similar projects for a long time. “Our clients, their needs and interests are constantly changing. Every library should follow the informational needs of visitors but, in addition to that, we should also educate on the topics that are relevant to modern society”, states the information specialist of Povilas Višinskis Public Library of Šiauliai County.

 

This article is part of the project “Stop Violence Against Women: From (A)wareness to (Z)ero Victims Blaming” funded by the Rights, Equality and Citizenship Programme of the European Union and the Lithuanian government. The content of it is the sole responsibility of the Office of the Equal Opportunities Ombudsperson and can in no way be taken to reflect the views of the European Commission.

Agneta Skardžiuvienė

Equal Opportunities Ombudsperson of the Republic of Lithuania

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