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Economic development and opportunities

Last edited: September 14, 2012

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Studies and anecdotal evidence suggest that economic dependance is among the strongest predictor of a survivor's decision to remain, leave or return to an abusive relationship. Given the various economic factors that contribute to women’s vulnerability to violence and prevent them from seeking help, it is essential for shelters to provide economic assistance for women as they return to their home community or transition to a new community.  

By assisting women to secure immediate financial supports and promote their opportunities to achieve and sustain income, shelters remove one of the greatest barriers to leaving abusive situations that exist for women.

Shelters may provide several areas of support to empower women economically, depending on the context of funding and available resources. These supports may include:

  • Job skills training and career guidance
  • Financial skills training
  • Support for access to assistance (e.g. social-welfare benefits that might be available)
  • Programmes (including through reintegration) that provide opportunities for income generation

Due to the extent of need and limitations in resources, shelters commonly develop or participate in collaborative projects that draw upon a wider range of resources to effectively support women in this area, including partnerships with private sector.



The private sector telecommunications company Verizon Wireless in the United States launched a Verizon Domestic Violence Entrepreneurship Grant Program in July 2010 to provide funding to domestic violence survivors to help them start or expand a small or home-based business. The company is awarding $100,000 to workforce development organizations across New York, who will work in partnership with local domestic violence advocacy agencies to develop training programs which help educate and mentor survivors to start or expand their own small or home-based businesses and develop a viable business plan for their venture. This can provide women with greater financial stability and independence, and enable them greater options for leaving a situation of abuse. Women who complete the entrepreneurship training are eligible to apply for a Grant up to $5,000. Over 14 grants totaling $57,500 were awarded in 2011, and the programme has expanded to six more states (Verizon Wireless). See a brief video about the initiative.

The Haven Wolverhampton Financial Inclusion Project in the United Kingdom began in 2009 with support from the private Nationwide Foundation Investors Programme. The initiative provides financial support to women affected by domestic violence and delivers training to help women make informed choices when dealing with financial institutions. The project also offers advice and guidance on budgeting, money management, support and signposting. Women have the opportunity to access small grants and volunteer to promote their independence. The Project also provides training to financial sector professionals to improve their knowledge and understanding of financial abuse toward developing best practice guidelines for effectively supporting survivors.

The Haven Wolverhampton. 2011. Surviving Financial Abuse: A Guide to Achieving Financial Independence. Available in English.


Examples: Shelter and Economic Support

Safe House and Skills Development Training, Association for Women’s Sanctuary and Development, Ethiopia

The Association for Women’s Sanctuary and Development is an Ethiopian civil society organization that has established the first safe house/shelter for survivors of violence. At the safe house, up to 50 survivors are provided with shelter, food, medical treatment, counselling, and self defence training. In addition, women are enrolled in a number of professional skills development training courses (such as childcare, embroidery/sewing and cooking) to facilitate economic self-sufficiency. After completion of the courses, the organization links trainees with employers. Training on supporting survivors is also provided to the police and other service providers. In 2011, building on the successful model, an additional safe house was established in the Adama town, Oromya region, where there are reportedly high domestic violence and HIV infection rates.


Sheltering Rural Women, Morocco

The Association Nour pour la Solidarité avec la Femme Rural (ANSFR) was created in 2003 as a national non-profit organization. Located in Ouarzazate, Morocco, it operates in the southern rural regions of the country. Its goals are: promoting and protecting women's rights, eradicating poverty and illiteracy, integrating rural women in development, and combating violence and discrimination against women and girls, specifically rural women and girls. ANSFR has set up 15 income generating projects, all small enterprises targeting 670 rural women. It has led awareness-raising campaigns on environment, health issues such as HIV, sexually-transmitted infections, etc., female education, and women's rights in the family code and in the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women provisions.


Batha Centre, Morocco

The Batha Center for the Empowerment of Women is a project of the joint United Nations Programme in Morocco (the Multisectoral Program to Fight Against Gender-based Violence through the Empowerment of Women and Girls – TAMKINE  funded through the Millennium Development Goal Fund of the Spanish Government from 2008-2011. The shelter and related services is managed by an NGO with support from the government. The multifunctional shelter model for domestic violence survivors in the Fez region provides a holistic approach where women receive shelter, health services, legal and psychological support and economic empowerment training (MDG-F Gender Window Knowledge Sharing Workshop UNDP, 2011).

See the Video.


Sisters Incorporated—Skills Development, South Africa

Sisters Incorporated runs a jewellery making business whereby residents are taught by a Skills Trainer to make jewellery. They are paid for the jewellery and it is exported to the UK. The jewellery is in turn sold through the Trent Vineyard Church and the profit is sent to the account of Sisters Incorporated. This helps them with their sustainability plan. Sisters Incorporated also trains other shelters in the Western Cape and other Provinces on how to start their own jewellery business. They have written and published a manual and offer this service free as well as provide a start up pack valued at R1500.00 free to assist them.


Economic Empowerment Program, Florida, USA 

The Allstate Economic Empowerment program in Naples, Florida has been developed to ensure victims develop financial freedom and become self-sufficient, so that they do not feel compelled to stay with/return to their abusers. The program features four primary components:

1. Financial literacy - "Moving Ahead through Money Management" curriculum

2. Job readiness - addressing survivors ability to secure and retain living wage jobs

3. Individual development accounts - a matched savings program

4. Micro loans - for starting a business, securing a car, or home. Repayment is required within 2 years of issue.


Moving Ahead Through Financial Management (National Network to End Domestic Violence, 2010). This training manual is designed to assist women escaping violence to develop financial understanding and empower them economically. Short term financial planning tools are also provided. This tool includes training for women, providing: resources to strengthen confidence in financial management and strategies to address the financial and safety challenges of leaving situations of violence;  information needed to better understand the various financial concepts, and products; information needed to understand one's personal financial circumstances and options (i.e. loans, housing); and strategies for taking basic steps to build financial strength i.e. budgeting, saving, establishing credit and managing debt. Available in English and Spanish here.

Surviving Financial Abuse: A Guide to Achieving Financial Independence (The Haven Wolverhampton, 2011).  Available in English.

Annotated Bibliography: Community Economic Development (Ghorayshi, Dr. Parvin; Barrette-Molgat, Marie-Claude; Graydon, Heather; and Amyot, Sarah; for the Manitoba Research Alliance on CED in the New Economy. 2005). This annotated bibliography provides a range of research and resources on Community Economic Development for women. Available in English.

Financial Skills and Literacy: Workbook for the Residents of Aboriginal Women’s Shelter (National Aboriginal Circle Against Family Violence, Canada). Available in English and French.