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Bolivia free of violence against women, now!


For more than 20 years, serious efforts have been underway in Bolivia to confront the phenomenon of violence against women through different initiatives and with different results. In this context, since 2010 the Punto Final Campaign has been proposed to promote the denaturalization of violence and to achieve changes in attitudes. This has been the central theme of the initiative in all of the four countries involved.

This undertaking has been an institutional challenge for CIDEM, the coordinating organization for the Campaign in Bolivia since the project's inception, in partnership with other organizations that have longstanding experience with violence against women and have felt called to promote a new strategy for action and intervention.

This strategic alliance is made up of CIDEM (National Coordination), the Red de Prevencion y Atencion a la Violencia contra las Mujeres (Network for Prevention and Treatment of Violence against Women) in the City of El Alto, Colectivo Rebeldia and Plataforma contra la Violencia hacia las Mujeres (Platform Against Violence Against Women) in the city of Santa Cruz and the Centro Sartasim Warmi. These groups have been joined by organizations like Catolicas por el Derecho a Decidir (Catholics for a Free Choice), Marie Stopes International, Bolivia, and others, with whom we began to build strategic alliances and inter-institutional dialogues to join forces, skills and resources and to organize joint events with the UNite, Campaign to End Violence Against Women, of the United Nations.

Addressing the issue from a gender perspective has allowed us to understand how society has perpetuated, condoned and accepted levels of violence against women and the shortcoming in the protection of their rights that also facilitate impunity. Just a few years ago, nobody talked about the elimination of violence, and now, it is addressed as a priority issue of national interest. In 2009, Bolivia's Constitution was amended to include the right to live free from violence, and consequently, a process to generate reforms and changes and laws has been initiated, striving for real changes because of the urgent social and human nature of violence. This urgent need has been recognized by the Punto FinalCampaign, and the Campaign actions have been based on this reality.

Thus, the Campaign has set as a goal "the elimination of the social acceptance of all forms of violence against women, focusing on action, specifically on changing cultural models of behavior." Its objectives are:

* To promote a change in social beliefs and attitudes related to gender discrimination, inequality and inequities;

* To generate a collective position from different sectors of the community and to strengthen the social and institutional response for the prevent of violence against women;

*To promote active mobilization against this social scourge through intersectoral partnerships; and

* To strengthen women's networks to perceive and report violence, to demand and influence the promotion of changes at the level of institutions and in the culture, and to develop collaborative efforts on prevention.

The Campaign's conceptual guidelines and baseline include specific targets of action for the intervention, which include:

* Promoting changes from the bottom up;

* Ensuring the cultural relevance and appropriateness of the interventions;

* Using multiple strategies and collaborative efforts;

* Recognizing that change is a complex process that requires long-term investment, as well as assessments.

The Campaign has been developed mainly around November 25, the International Day of Action Against Violence Against Women, and has included actions like the promotion of strategic alliances and public visibility through advocacy and communications activities. Thus, one of the key components of the Campaign has been public presentation and promotion through information campaigns involving the mass media. The objectives in this regard are:

General Objective

* To position the campaign Bolivia [pounds sterling] YA! Libre de violencia contra las mujeres (Bolivia, Free from Violence Against Women, NOW!) in the public eye through the mass media.

Specific Objectives

* To manage the incorporation of media allies in drawing attention to the campaign Bolivia [pounds sterling] YA! Libre de violencia contra las mujeres.

* To develop and produce a communications strategy by creating and constantly maintaining a central "message box."

* To plan and execute an informational intervention on the Campaign's components of management, training and coordination.

* To monitor and evaluate the informative communications actions and to analyze the impact of the informational component.

Indeed, from the information-communications perspective, the Campaign has highlighted the social nature of highly sensitive problems involving violence against women, so the strategy has been to promote a perspective of information and denunciation that demands the involvement of society, intermediaries and mediators to transform this situation.

The challenge of the information strategy has been to open the debate on the denaturalization of violence against women. The logo and slogan of the Campaign has its own political discourse, which has managed to unite and engage different sectors interested in continuing to draw attention to the task of changing accepted beliefs that justify violence against women and view it as natural.

On the other hand, based on the need to work with reliable information that allows a documented analysis, the Campaign has worked to create and systematize evidence to support the design of the Campaign in the country and the development of products, activities and verification sources. This means having:

* A Situational Analysis Document that has been validated and approved by the organizations in the country allied with the Campaign and working papers evaluating the situation of violence against women in Bolivia.

* A Map of Actors that has been validated and approved by the organizations in the country allied with the Campaign.

* This map is being updated constantly and has a baseline validated and approved by the organizations in the country allied with the Campaign.

* CIDEM has a baseline on violence against women and femicide that provides the Campaign with information and quarterly, semiannual and annual statistical reports.

* The Observatorio "MANUELA" Violencia, Feminicidio y Mujeres en Riesgo ("MANUELA" Observatory on Violence, Femicide and Women at Risk) and the system to gather information and newspaper reports on violence against women contribute to this goal and help strengthen the Information Systems for Citizen Monitoring from a Gender Perspective.

* The Casa de la Mujer in Santa Cruz has systems in place to record and take evidence to support the Campaign not only in order to have updated information but to present complaints and undertake citizen enforcement.

* As already noted, the Campaign has a communications strategy that aims to establish a multidimensional instrument that trains spokespeople for the Campaign, raises awareness among officials and decision-makers, intervenes in specific populations to reach women, men, girls, youth and adolescents, and also intervenes in the media.

* The Campaign has a can be accessed for more information.

Likewise the Campaign has been involved in public actions of consciousness raising and lobbying for the reformulation of the Penal Code and for femicide to be introduced as a crime that is punished under the law. Local and national regulations are changing, and criminal and family codes and women's legislative agenda must adapt to the current reality.

We have worked with policymakers and members of the judicial system. Indigenous men have also been involved in the Campaign; they have participated in Campaign actions and have pledged to make changes in their communities.

As part of our informational outreach to promote greater awareness and understanding of the issue, we have presented formal complaints and organized marches, sit-ins and events that have enjoyed the broad participation of organizations and individual men, women, children, youth and adolescents. These actions have been reported in the media.

We have also undertaken public actions demanding respect for women's rights. Among many other cases, that of Carla Ursuna has been emblematic. She had become disabled, and while she was receiving prenatal care, it was found that she had visible signs of being battered, but no one ever talked with her about the abuse. After the Campaign issued a public declaration about her case, the media opened debate on the issue and this encouraged a discussion on care in public health services and the need for a comprehensive perspective and a relationship between the judicial and healthcare systems. CIDEM is monitoring this issue and undertaking political advocacy in this regard.

Preliminary data from CIDEM's Observatory has also been used. This regularly published information is the only baseline data on femicide and violence in Bolivia and has been a useful tool to accurately reflect reality, support demands and question the inaction of local and national authorities. This information has been used by the media and has generated demand for the treatment of victims of violence, requests for campaign materials and lobbying around the issue of violence against women.


The denaturalization of violence involves very serious challenges. The population has been very open to the Campaign's messages, and the communications strategy has introduced the issue into the public debate. People are talking about violence and femicide, but what happens in people's homes is another matter entirely. Political figures and leaders of public opinion say that they agree with confronting violence in their communities, but do they very little or nothing, and no resources have been allocated for pertinent services.

One highlight has been the participation of young people in different Campaign actions, where they have been given information and psychological and legal counseling. In the schools, young people are participating as agents of change and peer counselors, promoting good practices and changes in attitude to encourage nonviolent dating practices.

Men's involvement has gradually increased, and we have seen greater participation by men in the public events, marches and workshops with prosecutors and other officials from the justice system, among others.

Currently, various private and public organizations are supporting the continuation of the Campaign. In most of the networks, such as the Red Contra la Violencia (Network Against Violence), government institutions are involved; they are joining in these efforts and not denying reality. In El Alto, for example, a local regulation includes commitments to address violence against women and has increased the number of services with equipment and qualified personnel to a total of eight facilities.

Finally, college students have also joined these actions, participating in seminars, workshops, meetings, as have counselors who are points of reference in the Campaign, youth leaders, authorities on the matter and others.
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Title Annotation:FOCUS
Publication:Women's Health Journal
Date:Oct 1, 2011
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