Gender violence and community work

Political will is necessary to incorporate gender violence prevention and control into community work on the island, grassroots leaders feel.

Efforts along these lines are being negatively affected by lack of funds for actions, little access to the media, inappropriate support for the economic empowerment of violence victims, police authority failure to successfully deal with gender violence, difficulties to work with local governments, and lack of interest and information in some communities.

Against this background, activists often organize training and awareness-raising workshops on self-esteem, leadership, gender issues, etc.

«Training is of the essence,» said Leticia Santa Cruz, coordinator of the project No to Gender Violence: An Effective Response to HIV/AIDS.

Under implementation by the National Prevention Center (CNP) for STIs and HIV/AIDS, this initiative focuses on a temporary accommodation facility for homeless people in El Cerro, a municipality in Havana.

«Most women here were housewives, and there were some prostitutes. They have attended training and/or upgrading courses and are now working,» she added.

«There are new options available to them, including self-employment and the incorporation into production or service cooperatives,» she indicated.

Sandra A. Hidalgo, a representative of a community-based transformation project in Zamora Coco Solo (Marianao municipality), told SEMlac that they gather together violence victims who have become artisans.

Established in 1988, these transformation projects are under the umbrella of the local governments in the capital city and seek to promote local development through active citizen participation.

Are you really sure…?

«When abused women report their cases to the police, they are repeatedly asked the same questions,» Santa Cruz stressed.

Caridad Tocaben, a project manager in Pilar de Atarés (El Cerro municipality), emphasized that police authorities get actively involved in training workshops and later act accordingly.

«There is an imperative need, however, to develop a police-oriented protocol on care for violence victims,» she remarked.

Sandra A. Hidalgo, a social worker in Marianao municipality, highlighted the importance of involving men in these community actions.

Building dreams

Community activists are working really hard to improve the quality of life of people who live in poverty conditions and are often hit by unemployment and/or violence.
Rayza Rojas, a leader of the Federation of Cuban Women (FMC) in Marianao, has been strongly promoting social work for over 10 years.

«I was very happy when I was informed that a young woman who had been a prostitute in the past had finally been given a decent job,» she told SEMlac.

Institutionalized discrimination is a type of gender violence that is not as visible as physical and psychological abuse in Cuba today.

«We also address the problems faced by children, senior citizens, unemployed people and former prisoners,» she commented.

«We have organized special workshops on education and communication, gender, equality, violence, cooperative arrangements, leadership and social participation,» she concluded.

Translated by Adolfo Fuentes

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