Christian Center Acts against Gender-Based Violence in Cuba

The CCDR’s work in Cardenas includes raising awareness and training women, men and other family members to prevent and eliminate gender-based violence and other forms of discrimination. Photo: Courtesy of the Christian Center of Reflection and Dialogue in Cardenas.

The non-profit organization based in Cardenas, Matanzas, is one of the pioneers in dealing with this problem on the island.

By IPS-Cuba

HAVANA TIMES – Tackling violence against women is a constant in the work of the Christian Center of Reflection and Dialogue (CCRD) in Cardenas, Matanzas, with in-person and virtual activities at its offices and in the community, which goes beyond any day of activism.

Even so, on November 25th, the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, the CCRD awarded photography and visual arts awards at the fifth edition of the Culture of Peace biennial.

“The subject for the show this year was “Rebirth after the pause”, relating to resilience in COVID-19 times and how art can also heal. Gender-based violence was really explored and the winning pieces, all of which were made by women, tackled this issue,” Beatriz Lima said, the coordinator of CCRD’s pastoral space for reflection and dialogue.

“We have really worked a lot on this issue in every space we’ve had up until now, and during the pandemic. We’re not so much into taking action on one-off occasions to commemorate a date, but rather into sustaining systematic work,” she pointed out.

Systematic work

One of the main problems in the work the center develops in some 12 rural and semi-urban communities in the Matanzas province is gender-based violence and violence against women.

Teams of experts at the center work in communities to prevent and eradicate violence, as well supporting respect for children’s rights. “It’s systematic, it isn’t just one day or date, but a matter of providing systematic training,” the coordinator added.

According to her, the CCRD works with these issues with a group of empowered women too, from different backgrounds, via socio-cultural projects and churches, which have now set up a WhatsApp group.

“There are almost a hundred, with business ideas, but nothing has materialized yet and we were leading a whole training and women’s economic empowerment program, that included issues linked to violence to general, gender-based violence and gender justice,” she stressed.

Other examples of women’s rights and new regulations for the self-employed are also explored. “Our collaborators tackle finance, marketing issues, including in the digital sphere, anything that might limit private ventures,” she said.

Violence, pandemic, emergencies

According to Lima, during the pandemic “there has been a greater overburdening of roles socially attributed to women, so they are feeling a lot more overburdened than men, and we have had to work on this.”

In order to tackle such matters, they created two youth networks with adults and teenagers and young people from different communities. They also virtually delved into matters such as healthy coexistence, sexual and reproductive rights, “trying to be systematic and with a therapeutic touch,” the coordinator points out.

“In our institution, there are psychologists who are used to this kind of accompaniment, and this has also formed part of their training and following the experiences people have lived during this period, which adds to harmony at home and requires work not only by women, but with every family member,” she weighed in.

In Lima’s eyes, “you never stop raising awareness about violence against women.” Meanwhile, she believes that “it’s a challenge to explore masculinities with men in rural communities, because a lot of the time, it’s normally women who go to these training spaces.”

“We have to work with every family member and raise awareness, so that has an impact behind closed doors,” she pointed out.

The advice service is still running, “a psycho-community assistance program, where work in rural areas has also been included, where experts in psychology go to provide psychological assistance to people, especially women ad children, and to deal with family conflicts.”

This program still has its everyday services providing assistance to the population. It offers support and guides female victims of violence in specialist appointments; “the pillar of the Christian center’s everyday work, and which was decisive – virtually – during the toughest moments of the pandemic,” Lima pointed out.

Getting back to face-to-face sessions

The center is now picking up its in-person activities and continues to contribute to the empowerment of different women’s groups, including one for entrepreneurs dedicated to childcare in creches, others dedicated to dressmaking and selling toys, as well as animators at birthday parties.

According to Lima, “we are working with everything that stems from preschool minds, the characteristics of childhood and its main challenges and experiences during the pandemic.”

They also talk to women about self-care as a necessity, as they should be “well-kept and looked-after before being able to look after others, in this case, children.”

Lima also pointed out that, within the context of the pandemic, psycho-pastoral assistance programs and care for the elderly and people with special needs continue to run. The El Retiro ranch, which belongs to the Christian center, continues to produce, something very important amidst this food crisis that is being played out on the island.

Read more from Cuba here on Havana Times.