Graphic Design: Lulú Angulo
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As I looked up from my newspaper in the metro, a woman caught my attention. There were signs of bruising beyond the outline of her dark glasses, and a man whispered stern remarks to her as she looked down with a despondent expression. Four stops later he stood up and said: “Move, let’s go.” My body tightened, heart raced and I thought to myself, what can I do? How can I help?
Since then, I frequently look around and remember that, worldwide, 1 in 3 women experience violence in their lifetime. And this ratio is even higher in some countries, like Bolivia (1 in 2).
On the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women (VAW), the IDB Gender and Diversity Division wants to share key data on VAW in Latin America and the Caribbean and take a closer look under those dark glasses. And while the data speaks for itself, I want to highlight two facts:
Many factors must align to enable women to report violence. At a minimum, better measures must be in place to reduce their fear that reporting will equal more violence, humiliation or poverty. In Guatemala, the Public Prosecutors Office’s Integrated Services Model, with specialized 24-hour assistance, offers a promising approach for offering confidential services to women who decide to report, preventing additional suffering or revictimization while they seek services, and speeding up protection measures.
In addition, two promising approaches have emerged in LAC for fostering greater economic autonomy among survivors: the provision of vocational training and business development services alongside VAW services (like Ciudad Mujer in El Salvador), and the integration of gender and VAW education into microcredit programs (like the IMAGE Peru project).
Boys and girls who witness violence at home are much more likely in adulthood to perpetuate and suffer such violence
To prevent future violence, there is a need to invest more in positive parenting skills development and the education of children and youth on gender equality and non-violent relationships. And bringing men into these processes as fathers and role models is essential. Program P, offered by PROMUNDO in Brazil, and Safe Dates in the U.S., are examples of effective approaches.
Certainly to address this issue more fully, a multisectoral approach is required. To contribute to this effort the IDB, World Bank, and the Global Women’s Institute at George Washington University are launching on December 3th a Violence against Women and Girls Resource Guide that I invite you to consult it (you can also attend the launch event). It offers promising practices and concrete recommendations for addressing VAWG from different sectors: health, education, security and justice, disaster risk management, social protection, and finance and business development.
So, there is a lot we can do to help in multiple ways. Is there anything you can do now in your workplace or your community to contribute?