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The Mary Foundation hands out a backpack with practical necessities and toys to every child who arrives at a crisis centre with their mother. This happens in close collaboration with Ole Kirk's Foundation and LOKK (National Organisation of Women’s Shelters in Denmark).

Real and symbolic value

Every year, The Mary Foundation distributes more than 2,000 backpacks to children who come to women's shelters in Denmark and Greenland and on the Faroe Islands. The backpacks contain a toothbrush, teddy bear, diary and a greeting from Crown Princess Mary, among other things. In addition to meeting a basic need for the essentials, the backpack also represents a symbolic gesture to the children which shows them that they are being heard and sends the message that violence is never acceptable.

Our studies show that the backpack is a tool used by the staff to communicate with the child about his or her difficult situation. In addition, we were surprised to find how much it means to the children that the backpack comes from Crown Princess Mary.

Anne-Kirstine Mølholt, research assistant at SFI, The Danish National Centre for Social Research

A study by SFI, The Danish National Centre for Social Research, shows that the backpacks not only delight the children and their mothers – they also act as a pedagogical tool for the staff at the women's shelters and thus contribute to breaking down the taboo surrounding violence:

  • More than 80% of the women's shelters use the backpack as an important tool when engaging the child in the difficult conversation about his or her experience of domestic violence.
  • 89% of Danish women's shelters regard the backpack as a highly or exceptionally valuable symbol of how violence is unacceptable.
  • 83% of women's shelters use the backpack as a starting point for engaging the child in the difficult conversation about their experiences of domestic violence. 

Domestic violence

29,000 women are subjected to violence at the hands of their partners every year. 33,000 children grow up with domestic violence. Having close relatives who are affected by violence is a big taboo and often regarded as shameful. The Mary Foundation wants to give the silent victims of violence a voice and to help them build a life free of violence.

See more about our area of action Domestic Violence