“¡Eres maravillosa!” (You’re wonderful!)
Repeating this mantra in unison as they received their certificates, each of the 14 women civil society leaders - lawyers, social workers and psychologists, academics and student leaders - from Central America and the Dominican Republic, affirmed one other’s work to eliminate gender-based violence (GBV) in the region. For the participants of Mujeres Adelante (Women Moving Forward), the past two weeks had been a whirlwind of meetings with local, state, and federal government officials, coalitions and advocacy organizations, as well as NGO service providers. This final affirmation was a reminder of how important the issue and each participant’s individual contribution to its elimination truly is.
The 2013 class of Mujeres Adelante included participants from El Salvador, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Honduras, Guatemala, Panama, and the Dominican Republic. For each of them, the two weeks in the United States -- first in Seattle, and then in Washington, DC.. -- were both a respite from the daily and very real threat of working on GBV and an occasion to strengthen the women’s ongoing commitment to the issue. Approximately 30 percent of women in the Americas have experienced physical and/or sexual abuse at the hands of a partner, or sexual abuse by a non-partner. Strikingly, and unique to Central America, two out of three women murdered are killed for a gender-related reason. This program provided the participants an opportunity to highlight the scourge of GBV in their home countries, and access new tools they could use upon their return home.
“Working [on GBV] is incredibly difficult,” one participant said. “Sometimes, we don’t get to the victim in time to help her. Sometimes, there is a lack of will [by authorities] to respond, and always, there is a lack of resources. That is why alliances like these are so important, so we can work together better.”
Launched in October 2012 by the Secretary’s Office of Global Women’s Issues, in collaboration with the Seattle International Foundation and the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, Mujeres Adelante is a network of Central American and Dominican women leaders who work to:
1. Raise awareness of the pervasiveness of GBV as well as awareness of women’s rights and available resources;
2. Increase governments’ accountability for preventing, responding to and addressing GBV;
3. Share best practices on service provision and advocacy efforts; and
4. Facilitate ongoing networking, skills and capacity-building of women in their home countries.
The United States has made preventing and responding to gender-based violence a cornerstone of our commitment to advancing gender equality and women’s empowerment. The United States Strategy to Prevent and Respond to Gender-based Violence Globally and the U.S. National Action Plan on Women, Peace and Security recognize that gender-based violence is a human rights abuse and a manifestation of the low status of women and girls around the world. Working together, we can ensure that women and girls live up to their true potential and live lives free of violence – and are able to contribute fully to their families, communities, and economies.
About the Author: Varina Winder works in the Secretary's Office of Global Women's Issues.