In Central America, a new campaign to stop violence against women is gaining momentum. Launched by the Via Campesina International (the Via), the campaign is aimed at changing not only the attitudes of men towards women, but systemic and institutional violence against women.
“This is the first time a campaign like this has been undertaken that is specifically for rural women who face far greater isolation and often far greater economic dependence on men. Previous campaigns have mostly focused on urban women,” says Maria Elena Martinez, the campaign’s technical advisor, who spoke to us from Chiapas, Mexico.
A Grassroots International partner, the Via is a global social movement representing more than 150 million small producers from five continents. Its members work locally in their countries as well as with other Via members at the regional and international levels, putting into practice viable and sustainable alternatives grounded in the concept of food sovereignty.
Inspired by the successes of Dominican women who pushed through landmark laws enshrining women’s rights in their nation, the Via launched its campaign in 2008 at their Fifth International Conference in Maputo, Mozambique. Barely two years later, the campaign has established a network of committees throughout Central America involving thousands of rural villages and local organizations. The news of the success has helped spread the idea to other countries in South America.
Maria Elena says that the global economic crisis has aggravated an already widespread phenomenon of violence against women. “Unemployment, economic hardship, lack of opportunities—they are behind the rise in domestic abuse.”
The Via is trying to change attitudes not only within families, but within organizations and their organizational cultures. Each country’s Women’s Commission operates independently, but many are working to involve institutions, community organizations, and the local media in the campaign.
Maria Elena believes that the campaign is creating much-needed ‘safe spaces’ for women to develop their leadership and continue in their push to free society of violence against women.
Grassroots International has funded organizing workshops in Central America as well as key Via Campesina gatherings for the Global Campaign to End Violence Against Women.