|Women against Violence: Breaking the Silence (UNIFEM, 1997, 116 p.)|
|Violence Against Women: A Regional Crisis|
In its declaration of principles, the Latin American and Caribbean Network Against Sexual and Domestic Violence defined its membership as "non-government organizations and independent persons who, from a gender-perspective, carry out actions to change situations of sexual and domestic violence experienced by woman in the region, with the goal of linking up with government sectors involved in these problems." Since its creation, the Network has become an effective instrument for achieving the goals established when it was founded. With branches in almost every country in the region, the Network has organized seminars and workshops, coordinated regional campaigns, produced publications and made proposals to governments and at world conferences and fora, among many other activities and initiatives. The 1990s have been particularly fruitful years although the Network has also had to confront considerable obstacles.
Women's organizations from 21 Latin America and the Caribbean countries attended the Network's first meeting in 1992 in Olinda, Brazil. ISIS International was chosen as the Network headquarters, responsible for communications and information with five sub-regional focal points: Mexico and Central America; Andean (Columbia, Venezuela, Chile, Ecuador, Peru); Brazil and the Southern Cone (Argentina, Paraguay, Uruguay); the Caribbean.
The Network's first priority was to coordinate among the sub-regions and headquarters to exchange work experiences, create new or strengthen existing national networks, and ensure that the presence of this issue was present on the agendas of public and private institutions. Raising public awareness at international, regional and national levels of gender-based violence was another priority. Members agreed to coordinate and co-operate with other international and regional networks, organize meetings at different levels and coordinate international and regional campaigns.
Members decided to publish a quarterly newsletter, Hojas de Datos (Fact Sheets), for legislators and journalists and a periodic bibliographic review "Documentas". Another decision was to hold regular meetings to coordinate specific work in conjunction with particular events (such as UN world conferences) and periodically evaluate Network progress. Today, the Network has grown not only in membership, but also in the different type of activities that member groups and institutions organize and develop.
Especially important is the development of national networks and/or coalitions in many countries of the region that raise public awareness, lobby and negotiate with governments. Examples are the Red contra la Violencia from Nicaragua, Red Chilena contra la Violencia Domica y Sexual, Coordinadora Paz para la Mujer from Puerto Rico, Red Argentina contra la Violencia Domica y Sexual, Red Uruguaya contra la Violencia, Red Brasilera contra la Violencia Domica y Sexual; Red Ecuatoriana contra la Violencia; national coalitions in Venezuela and Mexico.
Network goals are based on the conviction that the extent of violence against women throughout the region requires an integrated response. Central to the Network's strategy has been the use of specific actions, information and lobbying to persuade institutions and public-opinion leaders to consider gender violence a social phenomenon affecting all women, independent of social class; to raise awareness that gender-based violence damages all of society, including men and children, and therefore integrated actions are necessary to deal with it. Ultimately, we are convinced that no single mechanism will stop violence against women, making the use of an integrated set of mechanisms essential. Thus the efforts of women's groups and governmental offices, including the many ministries involved in relevant public policy, must be coordinated. The issue must be present in academic, police and judicial spheres, as wells as the media. Advocacy at international and regional levels, supporting relevant resolutions and working to implement them in national legislation and/or public policies has been another important element of Network strategy. Crucial to these strategies have been the concepts of discrimination against women and girls as the basis for violence against them, racial violence and segregation against the region's indigenous and black women, and the view that this problem involves human-rights issues.