The Martín-Baró Initiative for Wellbeing & Human Rights has just released its Fall 2021 newsletter. Read excerpts from the newsletter below or find the full newsletter here.
Through grant-making and education, the Martín-Baró Initiative fosters psychological well-being, social consciousness, active resistance, and progressive social change in communities affected by institutional violence, repression, and social injustice.
And on November 16, please join Grassroots International and the Martín-Baró Initiative (MBI) for an evening with Devin Atallah and colleagues (from a psychosocial wellness collective in Palestine that was a 2021 MBI grantee) and Anne Marie Chomat and colleagues (from the Buena Semilla Project in Guatemala, another 2021 MBI grantee). Voices from the US and around the world will commemorate the 32nd anniversary of the assassination of Ignacio Martín-Baró and his seven companions, and the importance of psychosocial wellness today.
Furthering Liberation Psychologies and Mutual Accompaniment: A Conversation with Mary Watkins
Lai Lai Liu and Ivana Wijedasa
Professor Mary Watkins is a psychologist at the Pacifica Graduate Institute, and has worked with marginalized communities in numerous settings. This September, she joined us for a conversation about her work in furthering liberation psychologies and mutual accompaniment, the significance of the Martín-Baró Initiative, and her advice to those hoping to make a difference in ongo-ing struggles for wellbeing and human rights.
During our conversation, we were struck by the evolution of Watkins’ work, realizing almost immediately it would be impossible to capture the breadth and depth of her research and advocacy in a short article. Nevertheless, the following topics and stories stood out to us and are summarized here to introduce our readers to some of the many ways of rethinking wellbeing and liberation psychology in the 21st century.
Watkins has been involved in psychology for nearly fifty years, and the central questions she’s asked herself are about understanding psychology’s limitations, “having been con-structed in Europe and America.” Her work to understand the discipline’s history and change its future has taken many forms, notably through her creation of the “Community, Liberation, Indigenous and Eco-Psychologies” program at the Pacifica Graduate Institute, her participatory research with marginalized communities, and her efforts in grassroots and advocacy organizations.
Liberating U.S. Psychology 20 Years After 9/11
The 20th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks in the United States has brought renewed attention to the horrors of that day—and to the destructive “war on terror” that subsequently devastated millions of lives around the globe. I am also reminded of my own profession’s failures during this era, especially those of the American Psychological Association (APA), the world’s largest organization of psychologists. After 9/11, the APA could have joined concerned human rights groups in seeking to constrain a military-intelligence establishment that brutalized prisoners and diminished the country’s moral standing. But the association’s leaders chose a very different path.
Psychologists were key participants in designing and implementing barbaric detention and interrogation operations that caused grievous physical and psychological injuries. Nevertheless, casting aside the profession’s fundamental principles to “Do-No-Harm,” the APA denied any wrongdoing by psychologists, insisting that their participation helped to keep these operations safe, legal, ethical, and effective. Eventually, an independent investigation left no doubt that APA leaders had covertly collaborated with Pentagon representatives to ensure the continuing engagement of psychologists in activities that were routinely abusive and sometimes torturous.
To its credit, in recent years the APA has made headway in acknowledging and addressing past wrongdoing. Of particular note, the association’s leadership overwhelmingly approved a policy that now prohibits military psychologists from involve-ment with detainees at Guantánamo or other sites that United Nations authorities have determined violate international law. At the same time, official apologies to the victims or meaning-ful reparations for their suffering have not materialized from the APA. Moreover, even the limited reforms to date face opposition from influential actors with ties to the national security apparatus.
Increased Gender-Based Violence in Latin America Due to COVID-19
Gender-based violence is defined as violence that is “directed against a person on the basis of their sex or gender, and it includes acts that inflict emotional, physical, mental or sexual harm or suffering…” (Dlamini, 2021, p.583). In Latin America, “machismo” is the belief system that fosters specific attitudes and behaviors that are directly linked to the idea of men’s superiority. The ideology of “machismo” and gender inequality rooted in the culture of Latin America contributes to the prevalence of gender-based violence in the region evident before COVID-19. For example, the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean registered 3,529 femicides in 2018, or one woman killed every two hours due to her gender (Prusa, García Nice, & Soledad, 2020). The COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated this violence and drew attention to the life-threatening dangers of a patriarchal society.
Due to COVID-19 and some of its protocols, gender-based violence has increased significantly. Several countries in Latin America experienced substantial increases in calls to emergency hotlines after stay-at-home measures were enforced. Argentina reported a 39% increase in calls after March 2020 and Colombia saw a 90% rise (Prusa et al, 2020). During the first 18 days of stay-at-home measures, phone calls to Colombia’s domes-tic violence helpline increased by 130% (Vassanelli, 2020). Additionally, femicides in Brazil increased by 22% and there were 71 femicides in El Salvador between January and August of 2020. During the first three months of stay-at-home measures in Peru, 915 women were reported as missing by authorities (Wilson Center, 2020). This increase in gender-based violence is due at least in part to COVID-19 protocols including lock-down and stay at home orders that were implemented to mitigate the transmission of the virus. Although these orders were developed to protect the health of their society, they also contributed to the endangerment of the life and health of women who were forced to remain in enclosed spaces with their abusers. COVID-19 protocols to stay home left women with fewer options to escape domestic violence as 70% of femicides in Latin America occur in a victim’s home (Wilson Center, 2020).