Working with feminists, youth spotlight violence against women
The global ENOUGH campaign, a 28-country initiative to end violence against women and girls, is expanding to Puerto Rico with the help of Oxfam and its partners Todas, a feminist media organization, and Inter-Mujeres, a nonprofit organization promoting awareness about the rights of women and girls in Puerto Rico.
The campaign, called ¡Cambia Ya! Vamos contra la violencia machista in Spanish, is aimed at young people and its goal is to provoke reflection on macho attitudes and gender stereotypes, and combat violence against girls and women.
The campaign’s educational content—posted on Instagram and Facebook (@Cambiayapr)—includes an animated video for teachers that is focused on the impact of toxic masculinity, and workshops with youth to analyze violence and microaggressions and how they are used to promote control, oppression, and inequality.
The initiative will also include original illustrations from seven talented female Puerto Rican artists, highlighting issues related to street harassment, gender roles and stereotypes, and relationships.
The youth workshops began last month, when 30 leaders across the island gathered virtually to learn how to counter machismo and violence, confront gender stereotypes, and analyze their own beliefs to be more effective change agents within their families and communities. Todas is providing a platform for the youth leaders to publish their personal testimonies on their website. Going forward, the leaders will decide on future workshop topics as well as pursue their own initiatives in support of the ¡Cambia Ya! campaign.
“There is not a single person who is free of thoughts, attitudes, or machista behaviors,” says Karla Ferrer Arévalo, a social worker and workshop facilitator. “If what we want is to combat violence, we’re not going to defeat it with attitudes and behaviors that come from the same origin, because we will be reproducing the same thing. These workshops are forcing us to look inside ourselves.”
Disasters and violence
Puerto Rico is enduring a series of disasters, starting with Hurricane Maria in 2017, followed by earthquakes in late 2019 and early 2020, and now the COVID-19 pandemic. Puerto Rico already had some of the highest income inequality in the country, with nearly half the island’s population living below the poverty line. Studies by Oxfam and others have shown that disasters exacerbate gender inequality across the island, with the physical, financial, and emotional burdens of care-taking without water and power disproportionately falling on women.
Violence against women and girls is an ongoing issue in Puerto Rico, with the COVD-19 pandemic creating a particularly difficult situation for victims of domestic violence—who are now at higher risk of aggression due to the enforced confinement. Oxfam is supporting a gender-based violence hotline to support survivors in need of immediate assistance. The hotline is staffed 24 hours a day by five different organizations, led by Proyecto Matria and the Gender Equity Observatory.
Oxfam began its work in Puerto Rico following Hurricane Maria, and the support for ¡Cambia Ya! is part of Oxfam’s effort to help the island recover and address the factors that keep so many in poverty. María Concepción, Oxfam’s director in Puerto Rico, says “gender inequality is both the cause and a consequence of violence against women and girls. It’s time to end this violence, one of the most widespread human rights violations in the world today.”