In the shadow of COVID-19: Adapting to protect women from violence in Colombia
“Those of us who are born or identify ourselves as women can recognize that poverty has a woman's face.” – A young Afro-Colombian woman from Buenaventura, who is a beneficiary of Corporación Con-Vivamos.
The organization Corporación Con-Vivamos, supported by the UN Trust Fund to End Violence against Women (UN Trust Fund), is working in Medellín with diverse groups of women and girls to transform social attitudes that normalize gender inequality and violence against women.
The project aims to develop studies, surveys and meetings in public and educational spaces, to challenge sexist behaviour and attitudes, and to help young people understand and lead transformative changes. Together with Corporación Con-Vivamos, five other women’s and mixed organizations in different territories of the country join forces to implement this project, including: Centro de Formación y Empoderamiento Ambulua, in Buenaventura and Guachené; Centro de Promoción y Cultura CPC, in Bogotá; Corporación de Mujeres Eco-feministas Comunitar, in Popayán, Silvia and Timbío; Funsarep, in Cartagena, and Oxfam Colombia.
Challenges posed by COVID-19
Since the outbreak of COVID-19, Corporación Con-Vivamos has witnessed the growing difficulties faced by local women and girls, particularly:
- their increased economic vulnerability;
- the absence of public mechanisms for timely responses to gender-based violence; and
- a widening technological gap for access to information and support services.
The lockdown has also forced many girls to suspend their education and take on unpaid care work, exposing them to higher rates of domestic and other violence as well as more obstacles to pursue higher education and training.
Adapting to unprecedented challenges
These extraordinary times have forced Corporación Con-Vivamos to radically adapt its methods so that it can deliver key training services virtually. It has also prioritized maintaining contact with beneficiaries through daily phone calls to identify their needs, refer them to relevant services, help register them to receive government aid, and provide psychological care. Additionally, Corporación Con-Vivamos offers digital literacy spaces and facilities so that women and girl survivors and those at risk of violence can access prevention and care support.
Meanwhile, the organization maintains its crucial collaboration with feminist organizations to collect data on prevention of violence, access to justice, the dynamics of routes to find care, and restoration of rights for survivors and those at risk of violence.
Clara Ortiz, Corporación Con-Vivamos’ General Director and Legal Representative, shared that these networks and alliances are permanently monitoring violence against women through WhatsApp, phone calls, groups of leaders and others. This allows for recording holistic data, including the phenomena that exacerbate this violence during the pandemic.
"Each investigative, monitoring and care management is conducted without harm,” she continued, “It [takes into account] non-revictimization, the autonomy and right of the victims to decide; the need to undertake pedagogical actions for their empowerment; and resources to meet their immediate needs."
“Corporacion Con-Vivamos has shown incredible adapting skills to continue collecting data through their strategies to reach marginalized populations and use of technology while maintaining the “do no harm” principle in the COVID-19 context. This is crucial to keep informing the ending violence against women field to tailor responses”, shared Amélie Gontharet, Knowledge Management and Research Assistant at the UN Trust Fund.
The work of UN Trust Fund grantees such as Corporación Con-Vivamos is crucial to ensuring that women and girls, especially those in marginalized communities, are not invisible in reports of violence and continue to shape responses that meet the needs of survivors and those at risk of violence during the pandemic.