Hesperian Health Guides

Organize to prevent violence

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HealthWiki > Health Actions for Women > Chapter 6: Ending Gender-based Violence > Organize to prevent violence

Violence-prevention actions are most successful when they involve the whole community — women, men, elders, and youth. Talk with everyone about the benefits of stopping all forms of gender-based violence. Make clear that efforts to stop violence are not directed against men, but for the well-being and dignity of every person.

Map the dangers

A mapping activity can be a good way to start community organizing to prevent violence. Invite community leaders, business owners, and other allies to participate and to help plan. Also try to involve women and girls who are especially vulnerable to violence because of where they live, when and how they travel to work or school, or because of the work they do. Make sure LGBT people identify the places in the community where they feel especially at risk. Have everyone walk around the community and note the problem places, then create a map of the dangers. The group can discuss and propose changes, such as better street lighting or community safety patrols. For an example of community mapping, see Mapping the way to safe motherhood.

Workers organize for safer streets
at=women walking at night with a bus nearby.

Women working in Free Trade Zone factories in Sri Lanka live in a large community of boarding houses outside the Zone. Union organizers surveyed women about their concerns and learned that women felt unsafe traveling to and from the factories at night because of robberies and rapes in the area. The organizers helped women discuss the problem, some possible solutions, and actions that could lead to safer travel. They took their proposals to the factory owners and won several changes, including a local bus service between the Zone and the boarding houses.

Transgender women fight to prevent violence in Colombia

In many places LGBT people, especially transgender people, who live as a gender different from their biological sex, have a harder time finding jobs, getting health insurance, and completing school than their peers. People in the LGBT community are also more likely to experience sexual assault and violence in their lives. (See more information on gender identity.)

In Colombia, attacks on LGBT people, especially transgender women, are very common. In 2004, Maria Paula Santamaría was attacked and died after being denied treatment at a hospital in Santiago de Cali. To honor her memory, 4 of her friends started the Santamaría Fundación to prevent the same thing from happening to other transgender women in Colombia.

To do this, they began publishing information about what to do if attacked, and how to file reports about assault. The group also provided helpful tips on how to stay safe, and advised women to travel in groups and to always have minutes on their cell phones to call the Fundación if they feel endangered. Realizing that police officers often harassed, sexually assaulted, and beat transgender people instead of protecting them, the group also began a "community watchdog" program to record and publish stories about police violence, including information about where and when the assaults occurred.

To raise public awareness about the problem, Santamaría Fundación also began to build memorials where women had been murdered. Copying a program the Ministry of Traffic had started, which recorded deaths from traffic accidents with black stars on roads, the group began posting pink stars where transgender people had been murdered.

The group has noticed that their pressure on the police force has decreased the amount of violence somewhat, but they know more work is needed for transgender people to be treated with the same respect and dignity as other citizens.

Link with movements for economic justice

Joining efforts to win equal pay for women and to ensure everyone receives a living wage, respect, and dignity on the job is another way the community can prevent gender-based violence. When women have a degree of financial independence, they can make choices for themselves to help ensure their health and safety.

Challenge gender-based violence in schools

In some communities, teachers, school staff, students and parents cooperate to make schools safe for everyone. They do this by agreeing on ways to actively oppose all forms of violence — including bullying and sexual violence — and creating a school environment where everyone strives to set an example of mutual respect and support.

A school program to help stop the cycle of violence

Kibera is a large, crowded settlement in the city of Nairobi in Kenya. Most people living there are very poor, and domestic violence is common. The Rehma Ta Allah Community Development Group works in schools to help children understand that violence against women is not normal and can be stopped. The program uses role-playing, skits, and other activities to teach children about the cycle of violence and how it harms them and the whole community. Discussion sessions encourage children to talk freely about violent situations they have witnessed or experienced without saying if the violence happened to them or their own families. They also draw pictures of violent situations and then talk about what the pictures show and how they feel about it. The program helps teachers recognize signs that a child or someone in her family is being abused, so they are better prepared to support students in difficult situations.