As a professional who has worked on issues of gender equality throughout my career, I am startled when I hear my 6 year old parroting certain things he hears at school or on TV -he can’t do something because it is “too girly,” inferring that it is inferior or that the use of force is cool and somehow means you are superior. These messages may seem relatively innocuous, but they can contribute to perpetuating patterns of gender inequalities and the use of violence in our relationships.
On the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, we should remember that the most deeply entrenched form of gender inequality and violence in our societies is violence against women and girls –take a look at the data just for our region. Some refer to it as a pandemic, and as such, it can seem insurmountable.
For many decades, this violence was primarily addressed from the health and criminal justice sectors after the acts had occurred. While these are both absolutely critical entry points, they are by no means sufficient. Because violence against women and girls has such a broad reach – affecting individuals from all walks of life and age groups, and taking place in our homes, workplaces, and other public spaces – our responses need to be equally as broad.
We can only confront the myriad of risk factors that contribute to it if we develop a myriad of responses. This can be a daunting task, I know, but an excellent starting point can be the Violence against Women and Girls Resource Guide. This multi-sectoral guide can help shed light on how gender-based violence affects development outcomes and how to address its potential risk in development policies and programs across different sectors. It can help you to build on promising practices from around the world, like the three that follow:
How can we prevent the violence that many young women and girls face at school and its surroundings?
The Colegio de Bachilleres in Mexico, found a way in the Love… but the Good Kind program, which fosters peaceful coexistence at school and the prevention of gender-based violence among adolescents. This pilot program, supported by the IDB, involves the training of students and teachers and awareness-raising in the school community.The short-term impacts of the program include reducing the prevalence of psychological violence perpetrated and experienced by males, and diminishing beliefs and attitudes that support and justify violence in the context of dating relationships.
In Mexico City, Mexico, they found that it takes cooperation, and that´s why the World Bank´s pilot program Hazme el paro (Mexican slang for “watch my back”) seeks to involve both drivers and observers of cases of sexual harassment against women in the bus system. For this, a mobile application was developed to report attacks reliably, in order to be able to collect data to make a diagnosis and formulate policies. This was complemented by a communications campaign and the training of bus drivers.
The city of Bogota, Colombia, did when it opened the first LGBT Community Center in Latin America in 2006 as part of a joint effort by the District Institute of Participation and Community Action of Bogota, and the NGO Colombia Diversa. Its creation aimed to convert the center into a safe and friendly space for the LGBT community in Bogota and offer free specialized services under just one roof for violence survivors.To date, there are two additional centers for the LGBT community especially targeting transgender female sex workers, those that have been abandoned by their families, and youth who are survivors of sexual abuse.
There are many ways to address violence against women and girls, no matter what sector you work in. Initiate, integrate, innovate. Make it happen.