Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Telefono Rosa, hotline for women in Italy

On March 22, 2007 I visited the office of Telefono Rosa (TR), a national hotline for women in Italy, with offices or partners in Rome, Turino, Merona, and Montova.

I met with Luisa Rizzitelli, a volunteer who also runs a communications business. Ms. Rizzitelli has been selected as a European fellow and will be traveling to the US later in the year. I hope she comes to Atlanta, as I would like to reciprocate.

Telephono Rosa's mission to help women in trouble, be it economic, violence, etc. They have a call center with 4 phones, and the services are completely free. In addition to the hotline volunteers, they have 12volunteer lawyers, 12 psychologists, and 2 bankers who advise about personal finance and help women open bank accounts.

The executive director of TR is Ms. Gabriella Moscatelli, who was the first women to become a bank manager in Italy. That occurred some years ago, but Italy still has the glass ceiling that allows women to see the top positions, but prevents them from achieving it. Except Ms. Rizzitelli called it the crystal ceiling. Even the bad things in life sound good when spoken by Italians.

The gender situation in Italy is not very good. Only 15% of the parliment are women and 6 of the ministers in the administration are women. However, 4 of the 6 do not have a portfolio. That is, they have no funding for their responsibilities and have to rely of the prime minister for funding. In the business sector, many women are managers, but none are CEOs, CFOs, and other decision makers.

In contrast, they hold Spain as the best example of gender equity, where there is equal pay for equal work.

Ms. Rizzitelli was very proud that TR operates "like a business." I asked what that meant and she explained that the hotline is available 8 hours a day, 5 days a week. Made me think that if this a great achievement, which is it, then they must been able to provide less services in the past.

TR makes a deliberate effort to serve the international population of Italy. They have offices in the embassies of Argentina, Equador, Ethiopia, and Peru and thus are able to help women from those countries. However, they are having difficulty reaching out to the Muslim community.

They have opened the International Home of Human Rights, in Rome, the only such kind in Italy. It is a shelter for women fleeing violence based on religious or cultural issues. Examples include women who have had acid thrown on their faces or fleeing female genital mutilation. They provide medical and health services, including therapy.

In additon to International Home of Human Rights, there are also domestic violence shelters in Italy. They are very interested in learning about laws to stop batterer and batterer intervention programs to stop abusers from abusing again. They found that 30% of batterers batter again.

Each year, TR receives 7000 calls and see 1000 women in person in the office.

As we spoke, a reporter from La Corriere della Sera newspaper arrived to work with Ms. Moscatelli on a domestic violence public awareness article. As in many parts of the world, violence against female family members are considered private concerns and not a legal or human rights issue.

They were very proud of the facts that the wife of the president of the Czech Republic visited their organization and that they were able to recruit 4 Olympic athletes to tape a public service announcement to say that domestic violence is unacceptable.

It's sad to see that violence against women, in their own homes by the people who are supposed to love and support them, is such a global problem. I know that for a fact, in my head and my heart, but it is still very sad to encounter it again.

On the other hand, it was very uplifting to see what TR has done to serve and support the women in Italy. The meeting ended much too soon, and I left feeling very inspired and thinking at RWN we must do more.

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