Many charities and associations out there have an outstanding story at the roots of their foundation. The ANAIS Association isn't much different, and with just a quick glance at the interview below, you can tell it is deeply rooted in an incredibly human sentiment: love, from a mother to her own daughter.
With a background in law and having assisted in several cases about domestic abuse in the past, President Carmen Nemes was well aware that women needed more protection in the eyes of the law. They still do. And so Carmen went on to found the ANAIS Association, named after her daughter, a legacy of love and protection that is still advocating for equal opportunities, genuine respect and professional outcomes for all the women out there – especially in the Romanian society, where domestic abuse sparks such a low interest.
Today we are getting Behind the Brand to learn more about the story of the ANAIS Association, how it came to life and how it plans to drive change for the future of the whole Romanian society.
How was your brand born and what does it do?
The ANAIS Association was set up in 2011 to advocate, raise awareness and drive change in Romanian society by promoting women’s rights. We dedicate most of our time and resources to the victims of domestic violence, and we are actively involved in changing policies and local legislation to the benefit of women.
The Association was the initiative of the current President, Carmen Nemes, whose background as a lawyer has proven essential to our activity from the very beginning.
Earlier in her career, Carmen assisted on many cases of abuse and divorce involving children traumatized by lawsuits and endless quarrels between parents. These experiences motivated her to act. As the mother of two children, she was very keen to help children – especially those with special needs – and, particularly, to protect them against parental abuse. At first, she focused on protecting the children. However she quickly realized that she would not be able to sufficiently protect them without protecting the mother first (which legal-wise, back in 2011, was rather difficult).
In the light of this, our first objective was to push for a change in legislation and we successfully lobbied for the introduction of the protection order that victims have been able to apply for since 2012. This was a major breakthrough for Romania and gave us the confidence to continue.
ANAIS is named after Carmen's 12-year-old daughter, who often joins her for the Association's activities. For Carmen, ANAIS Association is the legacy she wants to leave to her. As a professional, she does not want to see anybody’s daughter become a number in the police statistics; as a mother, she wants a secure future for her child.
Carmen started this project with her long-term friends Giulia Crișan and Mihaela Mangu.
Giulia is the lawyer who pleads in favour of the victims for obtaining protection orders and organizes, among other things, informative sessions with members of the police. Mihaela is in charge of internal organization and maintaining relations with other NGOs, contacts, coordination of social services, and so on.
In time, others joined the cause, including Adela Szentes, the Association’s psychotherapist, who organizes various individual and group sessions.
What is one unique aspect of your brand?
We believe that progress and sustainability are directly proportional to the status of women in society.
We advocate for equal opportunities, genuine respect, increased visibility and fair professional opportunities. But such high ideals cannot be achieved from the wings. They require a deep understanding of what real women, victims of domestic violence, face every day. Our work bears a huge emotional toll, as each personal tragedy becomes part of our own story.
We strive to provide genuine support for the women that seek our help, to be close to them as much as possible and to provide them with mental support and assistance while acting in their best interest whenever possible.
Sometimes, we fail. But any progress, no matter how small, is reason enough to go forward.
Can you describe your brand’s personality in one sentence?
We promote equal opportunities for women and men by supporting the raising of social status and increasing the visibility of women in their professions and communities, working to combat violence against women by providing services for the protection and assistance of victims of domestic violence, including protection of minors from violence.
What was the biggest challenge for the growth of your brand?
One of our biggest challenges has been developing a new social service within the Association – a 24/7 emergency shelter for victims of domestic violence. We managed to open and operate the centre for almost two years, but unfortunately, we were forced to shut due to lack of funding.
Another struggle is the fact that domestic violence is a topic that sparks quite a low interest in Romania. Our biggest challenge in terms of communication was how to address the subject of violence from a new and more interesting angle. Together with Cheil | Centrade, we did a series of awareness campaigns that conveyed the anti-domestic violence message through branded entertainment with a twist. Our aim is to create video content that has the dual goal of working as entertainment and education.
Which was the first huge success that you can remember?
There have been many achievements we consider successful, especially from our early years. The moment we opened the counselling centre for preventing and fighting domestic violence, for example, was the moment we became a real support for women victims of domestic violence.
Another milestone was the launch of ‘Unquiet Voices’ in 2019 – a heart-breaking movie that challenged a 100-year-old silence. Real women who’ve survived domestic violence gave their voices to scenes from silent movies where female characters are being abused by men. We created a brand new cinematographic product that would educate and empower a new generation of women. Besides winning several international creative awards, the movie was also shortlisted at the Cannes Film Festival.
What’s the biggest opportunity for you and your brand in the next year?
Three years ago, we embarked on an active communications campaign to increase awareness of this huge social problem. At that time, nobody could predict the coronavirus outbreak and its tragic consequences for the victims of domestic violence.
The pandemic has gravely impacted their lives all around the globe. And with restrictions unlikely to be lifted anytime soon, we expect things to get worse. This has made our work all the more valuable, because more and more women (and their families) are crying out for help.
Last year, we launched #IsolateViolence, a campaign that warns of the dangerous escalation of abuse that the lockdown has already incited. Three heart-breaking new films and three print executions carry the hashtag #IsolateViolence and urge people to call the emergency services if they hear anything suspicious. The films take the statistics and graphics that have become familiar on the news in relation to the coronavirus epidemic and provide an alternative version that highlight the increase in domestic abuse that inevitably occurs in parallel with the spread of Covid-19 and enforced social isolation.
Over the past 12 months, calls to the Association have more than doubled, which means we need to increase resources and intensify our advocacy efforts. This year, we launched a new campaign called Guilt Gifts Puppetry, a project where art becomes an instrument for recognizing aggression. Using toys belonging to real victims, we created an experimental puppet theatre, including eight short plays depicting true cases of women affected by domestic violence.
The stories reveal the damaging ramifications of “guilt gifting” and how through it, aggressors manage to deepen the victims’ traumatic experience. The episodes are available on http://guiltgiftpuppetry.com where the public is invited to contribute with a donation to watch them. The funds will finance ANAIS projects supporting the victims.
Do you work with an in-house creative team, an agency or both?
We are fortunate to get pro bono support from the incredibly talented and passionate people of the Cheil | Centrade agency, who signed all our awareness campaigns – Unquiet Voices (2019), Isolate the Violence (2020) and Guilt Gift Puppetry (2021).
What do you look for in a creative agency?
We are looking for creatives that believe in our team and our mission; people who want to make a difference in the victims’ lives and understand the huge responsibility and emotional toll that comes with such creative and communication work.
What is one tip you would give to other brands looking to grow?
Begin by establishing clear values and the mission that will lay the foundation of your development strategy. We encourage joining forces with people/organizations/institutions/agencies that share the same values.
What is your current role about? Any ‘typical’ day?
The phone rings from the first hour of the morning regarding new cases, existing cases, requests for information, journalists and even aggressors sometimes give us a ring. We design ourselves a set of tasks to stick to, but we’re always working around the clock as new cases always appear. Case evaluations, legal counsellors, psychological counsellors, support groups follow one another. Team meetings are the secret ingredient that makes the wheels spin and makes things work.
What’s your one big hope for the future of branding?
Associating the brand with quality services, approaching people and understanding their real needs. I hope that communication and brand promise matches the quality of service, genuine empathy and a sustainability policy adapted to current social needs.
Do you have any websites, books or resources you would recommend?
We have published two Romanian language unique books (legal practice in domestic violence area) written by our specialists.
- Domestic Violence. Paradigms and Legal Practice, released in October 2020.
- Domestic Violence. Commented Legal Practice, released in November 2017.
We also have our digital platforms available for everyone to study: