‘Viva Vittoria’ in Santa Croce to Help Women

Left to right: AILO member Vesna Rusic, AILO president Begga Leifsdottir Mensuali and Linda Mensuali, AILO cultural chairperson (photo by Morgan Angove)

Viva Vittoria Firenze, a volunteer-based project whose main goal is helping women who have experienced domestic violence, will take place on November 11 and 12, 2023  in Piazza Santa Croce. The 3,000 square meters of the piazza will be adorned with beautifully decorated, handmade blankets for sale on a plastic tarp. Proceeds will be donated to three non-profit associations specifically geared to providing services that are easily accessible for these women.

The American International League of Florence (AILO) is organizing Viva Vittoria Florence. The mission of AILO, a group comprised of English-speaking women and men of various nationalities, to give back, which includes aiding local charities. “The American-International League, therefore, was a natural choice to head the Viva Vittoria project locally. Piazza Santa Croce will be covered by art for a cause,” says AILO president Begga Leifsdottir Mensuali.

In order to acquire a magnificently handcrafted one-of-a-kind crocheted blanket at Viva Vittoria, one must donate a minimum of €20. The event will also be a unique opportunity to learn about the ongoing problem of violence against women and to support their journey towards a better life. A microphone will be provided for women who would like to tell their personal story regarding violence inflicted on them or their loved ones. This quiet, shared space is designed to create a more safe and comfortable environment where one can not only express their thoughts and feelings, but also to raise awareness and understanding.

The effort and time dedicated to making the blankets was more complex than those made in a factory. Since January, 2022, crocheted squares 50 x 50 cm (19 x 19 in.) have been made by hand and donated by a vast community in Florence, other cities in Italy and from around the world by people ranging in age from 6 to 102. Under the guidance of AILO, individual squares that complement each other were sewn together to form a blanket 100 x 100 cm (about 3.3 x 3.3ft) in size. Tied together with red thread, a color that specifically symbolizes violence against women, the blankets all share a message to unite in the name of a cause that needs attention.

The designated recipients of funds will be Artemisia Centro Antiviolenza, ACISJF Firenze, and Nosotras Onlus. All of these organizations extend a helping hand to those who are in need of assistance, particularly women. Artemisia assists women, children, and adolescents, who have experienced violence, ACISJF Firenze is a Catholic association that mainly focuses on supporting single women or women with children who are homeless or who wish to escape from an abusive relationship. Nosotras onlus works to empower women from differing ethnic backgrounds, teaching them importance of independence, and how to achieve that goal. Staff members offer counselling, guidance, education, and training to women to gain a different perspective on their role in society.

Established in 2015 in Brescia, the Viva Vittoria events have been held throughout Italy. The date chosen for Viva Vittoria in piazza Santa Croce perfectly complements the fact that the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women falls in the month of November, specifically on the 25th.

“You don’t need to know the language when you’re doing something — that’s the spirit of giving,” said Mensuali.  (Kaylie Taitano)