Comment: Hijack Cupid to get your point across

A certain day is upon us - a day that fills some with excitement, that is dreaded by others, but completely forgotten about by most of us: St Valentine's day.

John Knight
John Knight

It is intriguing to see how charities use events such as St Valentine's day to campaign and generally raise awareness of issues. Any hook for a campaign or awareness-raising activity is always jumped on by voluntary organisations, and others. However, it is the rather more specialised charities that can benefit most from using 14 February to promote their work. In particular, they tend to focus on personal issues such as relationships and all the good and bad that comes with them.

Women's Aid has run successful campaigns for the past two years on St Valentine's day. The charity deals with domestic violence and was established in the wake of the women's liberation movement of the 70s. It provides services for victims of domestic violence and campaigns to influence policy and raise awareness of the issue.

The charity uses 14 February to remind people that, for more than 500,000 women, St Valentine's day will be like any other - filled with violence and abuse. The shocking nature of the campaign and the work that Women's Aid does to respond to these criminal acts really hits home on a day that is traditionally a nauseatingly commercialised celebration of love.

This kind of campaigning shows the growing importance of the voluntary sector in providing expert services, advice and support for people experiencing relationship difficulties. One charity that has been doing this kind of work since 1938 is Relate. On St Valentine's day 1988, the Marriage Guidance Council relaunched and rebranded as Relate in response to the changing relationship needs of society. It now provides a wide range of relationship support services, from counselling to sex therapy.

As I have said before, the third sector is everywhere - even behind our front doors, and maybe in our bedrooms.

Society will always need relationship support and advice and the voluntary sector is an excellent provider of these services. Maybe that's something else to think about this Valentines Day rather than the wilting roses and out of date chocolates.

- John Knight is head of policy and campaigns at Leonard Cheshire Disability: jk.thirdsector@googlemail.com.

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