We caught up with Franchesca this 16 Days of Activism against Gender Based Violence. Franchesca is a mum of two girls, the creator of the blog Brave for Bully Zero,
a counsellor at Toora Women and most recently the award winner for the Rising Women of Spirit awards.
1. Please tell us a bit about yourself, your occupation, and what a typical day looks like for you.
My name is Franchesca, and I am counsellor. A typical work day looks like waking up, getting my children ready for child care, and then working alongside courageous Canberra women as they navigate through differing seasons.
2. You created the blog Brave for Bully Zero. Can you tell us a bit more about that and what drove you to create this?
The idea of Brave came to me amidst a trying season in my own life, where the longevity of being bullied felt conclusive. In a moment of strength, which can sporadically come to vulnerable people as a means of survival and hope, I envisioned turning the pain into art, and building a community where the walking wounded could unite as a means of autonomy and reclamation. Brave began by me writing creatively about a future with no violence, for example, or writing to my younger self, willing her strength. It then became about reaching out to others and basking in their knowledge and coping mechanisms. Collectively, we have been able to speak about difficult subjects – which reclaims power over the injustice, and offer solutions on how best to move forward and evolve.
3. People misuse power over others in a whole lot of different ways, and this can include gender inequality and stereotypes. How do you think gender relates to bullying (or not) in different situations?
Gender can relate to bullying in the context of stereotypical notions that dictate and limit what a person ‘should’ be. If we view genders in a hierarchy, for example, because traditionally that has been the norm, then the potential of a misuse of power can occur – which can look like bullying, violence, or abuse. The best way to overcome gender inequality is to view a person as a person, regardless of their gender. Being interested in a person’s strengths and ideas will build capacity far greater than a preconceived idea of gender capability.
4. You also work for Toora Women – what encouraged you to work in this particular organisation?
As a woman, with two daughters, three sisters, who went to a Catholic girls high school, and spent her final Master year working at a women’s health service, I have come to hold a sound understanding on the trials women and girls hold merely due to their gender. After studying a Bachelor of Psychology, majoring in Counselling, and a Master in Social Work, I wanted to use my education to assist a demographic that I have known particularly well. Working for Toora has allowed me to sit alongside women willing their best in situations that have come their way. It has been an honour to be part of their pain and their healing.
5. What does respect look like to you – in relationships, workplaces, friendships and more broadly?
Respect looks like gently hearing. It looks like taking away labels, predispositions, and ‘normals’, and replacing them with context, empathy, and a willingness to not just listen, but to truly hear. Respect does not mean difficult conversations cannot occur, it rather means space will continually be held for both challenging conversations and trying times where safety will reassuringly always be at the forefront.
6. The theme for this year’s 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence is ‘UNITE! Invest to prevent violence against women and girls.’ What kinds of investment do you think are needed most?
I think one of the greatest things society can do for women and girls to see them as irreplaceable, worth learning from, and innately intuitive. Investing in this starts small, and could look like bedtime stories moving from Cinderella to Chihiro, or a mandatory subject in school being dedicated to affirmations and self-care. Having organisations and services be not only trained in trauma-informed care, but be held accountable in meeting the principles of the lens could mean context and understanding becomes stronger than shame and characterisation. Having an equal amount of women and men in parliament as a necessary condition could mean a larger range of perspective; and having disclosures on advertisements when photoshop and editing has been used could be a gentle reminder of what is not attainable and not expected.
I also fundamentally believe that in order to truly see and assist women we need to truly see and assist men – which looks like investing in their demographic, also. Understanding their predispositions and behaviour allows opportunity to understand and combat issues that circle and flow between genders – issues that are becoming increasingly prevalent.