Community Alternatives to Tackle Violence Against Women  in Cuba

By Sara Mas  (Progreso Semanal)

Panel members at the the International Conference on “Expectations, achievements and disillusions in the new millennium and the culture of Latin American and Caribbean women,” held at the Casa de las Amércias in Havana.

HAVANA TIMES – With comprehensive services and protocols to respond and prevent gender-based violence in shortage, academics and activists are developing a community model that establishes these kinds of actions in different neighborhoods across the Cuban capital.

The project is based on the idea that the community is the crux, where different agents involved in this problem act, identifying support networks and accompanying victims of gender-based violence, as well as other actions, its organizers explained during the International Conference on “Expectations, achievements and disillusions in the new millennium and the culture of Latin American and Caribbean women,” which was held between February 18th-22nd at the Casa de las Americas.

“It’s absolutely essential that any response/prevention action to tackle gender-based violence is taken from the gender perspective,” Cuban sociologist and professor Clotilde Proveyer Cervantes says, who also chaired the panel “Violence against women and challenges in tackling it. Proposals for an integrated response in Cuba.”

“Not including this gender perspective is the same as the risk of continuing to address the issue as belonging to a private or family environment, which needs to be solved within that intimate space, without understanding its social dimensions or calling into question its occurrence within a patriarchal framework,” the researcher weighed in.

She warned that another risk is falling into the simplification that gender-based violence comes down to a financial problem, unemployment, alienation and the lack of a formal education, she pointed out.

Proveyer insisted that an effective response to the problem of gender-based violence needs to be comprehensive.

This means going beyond safeguards of protection, safety and gender-based violence victims exercising their rights, to also include a strategy that allows us to denaturalize gender-based violence in our culture, eliminating the myths that uphold it and giving people the tools they need to detect and recognize abuse in any of its forms.

Communities are a key player in preventing and responding to violence, sociologist Magela Romero Almodovar also pointed out, explaining the role that the Oscar Arnulfo Romero Center (OAR) has played since 2017, alongside education and Neighborhood Comprehensive Transformation Workshops in Eastern Alamar, Parraga, El Canal, Libertad and Buena Vista, in the Cuban capital.

“The community is the space where these victims are, where these incidents take place, where formal and informal support networks exist that need strengthening,” she remarked.

The Havana University professor mentioned the training needed within the community to raise awareness about this social problem, its causes and most naturalized expressions, as well as preventing the revictimization of those who have suffered gender-based violence, providing them with the psychological, legal and personal help they need.

In the absence of comprehensive response services in Cuba, these kinds of models will help to raise awareness and pave the way for action in community spaces to tackle gender-based violence, they both stressed.

Revealing the potential of communities, of strengthening (formal and informal) support networks and managing to get different agents involved to play their part, has been one of this project’s positive outcomes, Zulema Hidalgo, an expert at OAR, explained.

It has also exposed great challenges, such as the absence of an overseeing governmental body, that is responsible for comprehensive care services for victims, she outlined.

She also recognized that this kind of action needs training of everyone involved, of specialist personnel and human resources who can’t just rely on volunteers, as they need stable services.

(Article originally published on SEMLac)