Asociacion Para Politicas Publicas

With only one week left in Buenos Aires I am vigorously blogging away on my Advocacy Project Fellowship blog about working as an AP Fellow for Asociacion Para Politicas Publicas in Argentina, and their involvement in the international Disarming Domestic Violence Campaign.  Below are two posts from the last week regarding the gathering and reporting on statistics related to violence against women, and more specifically armed violence against women in Argentina. These posts originally appeared on my Advocacy Project Fellowship Blog.

“At least 82 women were killed by gender-based violence in the first half of this year in Argentina”

“At least 82 women were killed by gender-based violence in the first half of this year in Argentina.”

This is the title of the news story that came out last week covering the release of a report on the number of women killed by their “husbands, partners, lovers, boyfriends, former partners, neighbors, relatives, or unknown assailant committing an act of sexual violence against them” in Argentina between January 1st and June 30th, 2009.  Another nine cases are still under investigation. In 2008 a total of 208 women were murdered in Argentina by their “husbands, partners, lovers, boyfriends, former partners, neighbors, relatives, or unknown assailant committing an act of sexual violence against them” putting Argentina just behind Mexico and Guatemala, although it is noted that no mention of Colombia or Brazil’s standings are included in the report.

The report on femicides in Argentina during the first half of 2009 was conducted by “La Casa del Encuentro“, an Argentine civil society association. It is revealing in many regards. Not only does it bring to light to the magnitude of violence against women in Argentina, it also confirms that the problem is not one of isolated criminal cases, but “a social, political, and human rights” issue. This is a crucial point to make as I’ve mentioned in previous posts, my experience is that there is little awareness about the prevalence of domestic violence in Argentina, and when confronted with the topic, the tendency is to downplay the gravity of the problem, or to push it onto “the other”.  Perhaps this is because there is little news generated on the issue, scarce statistical data to date, and no citywide or countrywide awareness campaign on the issue.

The lack of statistics is noted by Fabiana Tunisia, General Coordinator of La Casa del Encuentro. In several news articles covering the report she is quoted as saying the initial 2008 investigative report came about as a result of the fact that those working in the field of gender-based violence realized that no such report existed in Argentina. After spending time learning about and meeting with some of the numerous governmental and nongovernmental agencies working on women’s issues and gender-based violence in Argentina, it is quite alarming that so few statistics exist.  Those of us working at APP on the Disarming Domestic Violence Campaign in Argentina welcome and applaud the release of a report that include such statistics, and pledge to continue working towards the development of additional statistics, including those that differentiate between methods of violence.  While the articles covering the report refer to several examples of armed domestic violence cases, the report makes no direct links between arms and the deaths of these 82 women.

Having already mentioned some of the real problems associated with statistical collection and analysis in Argentina, it is perhaps less surprising, though no less discouraging, to find that the same articles covering one of the best reports of late are also culpable of perpetuating statistical errors on the topic. No less than four sources in two different languages included the following information:  ”Reality also shows that so far in July there were 21 cases of femicide, which gives an average of two women per day are murdered in Argentina”.  These articles were published on the 19th of July, 2009.  After a long attempt to understand how this figure could have come about, I determined it must have been an error in reporting.  If there were 21 cases of femicide (female homicide) over a 19-day period in July, there is just no way that you can conclude that an average of 2 women per day are murdered in Argentina.  It is important to mention this because as we recognize the power that statistics can play calling attention to the severity of domestic violence in Argentina, and in turn, the role that they can play in affecting policy and legal changes in the country, we also realize that we must first establish a history of statistical integrity in the field.  This will be difficult to accomplish when careless computations are made, quoted, and then repeated throughout the media.

Despite the statistical error quoted in these news stories, the report itself is free of such errors and contains several positive implications for the Disarming Domestic Violence Campaign.  For one, it calls for the immediate reform of domestic violence laws in Argentina, as a means to “making clear that society does not endorse such behavior”.  It also demands the immediate loss of parental rights for anyone who kills, or attempts the life of the mother of their children, along with the unequivocal protection of women victims of violence under law.

In its conclusion, the report highlights some of the important challenges which the DDV campaign hopes to overcome: a lack of official statistics on femicides in Argentina and a lack of sufficient public policies (and laws) to influence the social and cultural behaviors that cause the death of hundreds of women each year. And most importantly, it reinforces that combating violence against women and children is not something that social organizations or the state government can accomplish alone, it is everyone’s responsibility. We hope that through the implementation of the DDV campaign in Argentina, along with the important work of associations like La Casa del Encuentro, positive and necessary change to end violence against women in Argentina can be acheived.

Statistical Significance: Meeting with the Women’s Directorate of Buenos Aires

Momentum around the Disarming Domestic Violence campaign has really been building here in Argentina and the Asociacion Para Politicas Publicas (APP) office was abuzz this week with new developments.

First a little background. The first two weeks of my fellowship with APP were dedicated to launching the DDV campaign during the Global Week of Action Against Gun Violence. Hitting the ground running never felt so good! But these intense first 10 days were followed by a few weeks of disruptions from office illnesses, pre-election fixation on politics in Argentina (more to come on this topic), and the post-election swine flu mania, and a state of health emergency declared by the government. Having just gotten back from a conference in Rio last week and itching to make the most of my last two weeks in Buenos Aires, I was delighted that the momentum we’ve been building around the campaign is really taking off and that despite the various set-backs, our hard work is coming to fruition in some truly visible ways. The following few posts will focus on some of these new developments, discoveries, and outcomes.

Me, Pia, and Paula in the APP Office
Me, Pia, and Paula in the APP Office

Direccion General de la Mujer del Gobierno de la Ciudad de Buenos Aires

Earlier this week I accompanied APP staff members Maria Pia Devoto and Maria Paula Cellone to a meeting with the Magdalena Acuña of la Dirección General de la Mujer del Gobierno de la Ciudad de Buenos Aires or the General Directorate of Women, Government of Buenos Aires. The Direccion General de la Mujer works in two parts: direct assistance to victims of domestic or sexual violence, and programs, which include public policy advocacy and data collection.

The Directorate’s direct assistance activities include: taking formal legal complaints known as denuncias from (mostly) women who want to report abuse, providing a call center for cases of emergency, managing shelters equipped with lawyers, psychologists, and doctors for women and children victims, and providing individual and group therapy and workshops for victims. They have a total of 6 decentralized offices across the city of Buenos Aires offering these services.

Their programmatic division works in the public policy arena strengthening state support for these services and the laws that govern them. They also work to collect and systematize information (including statistical data from the 6 offices) and funds for the directorate. It is within this programmatic division that a new “Observatory” is being created for the sole purpose of focusing on the collection and synthesizing of information and data.

It is difficult to find statistical information on the prevalence of domestic violence, or women’s deaths due to armed violence in Argentina. Although the denuncias are recorded and quantifiable, they only represent the reported incidents or cases of domestic and sexual violence, and it is unknown how many additional cases are out there. In addition, I have been told that it is commonly known that statistics are often invented in Argentina. And not just in the field of disarmament, domestic and armed violence. Maybe it is a way of getting around the fact that there is simply an overall lack of statistics in the country, and an expression of a need for credible ones. Maybe it is due to a lack of statisticians to crunch the numbers. Whatever the reason that reliable statistics are hard to come by in Argentina, this is one of the challenges APP is trying to overcome in order to produce useful information about the incidence of armed domestic violence in the country.

During our meeting, Magdalena mentioned some of these common frustrations shared amongst advocates working for women’s rights in Argentina. The national and city women’s directorates are the main, if not only sources of data collection on domestic and sexual violence in the country. Researchers and public policy officials often call them to request access to the information they have or should be collecting, but due to a lack of proper data collection, and a lack of communication and coordination across the city offices, they are typically unable to hand the information over. Sometimes the information is so dispersed or incoherent that one cannot aggregate and deduce legitimate or statistically significant results.

The Observatory will not only help to systematize this data collection, it will also be a center from which research and analysis will take place and be produced. It is really an exciting development here as hopes are the Observatory will be able to correct what most working in this field (regrettably) already know – these kinds of credible statistics just don’t exist at thsi time.

And APP could not have met with the Buenos Aires Women’s Directorate at a better time. Within the Observatory, they are still in the process of shaping the protocols and questionnaires involved in making a formal complaint, a denuncia, and for registering women and their children at shelters across the country. As a result of our meeting with the BA Women’s Directorate APP plans to work with the observatory on incorporating important questions about the presence or use of arms in incidences of sexual and domestic violence. The observatory will be a natural place for APP to concentrate DDV campaign efforts and collect solid data over time about the use of arms in cases of domestic violence.

Before public policies can be shaped and women’s advocates can do their work to improve women’s security in Argentina, they must first know more about the problem and the women affected by it. The establishment of an observatory dedicated to proper information and data collection gathering is a promising step in the right direction for producing valuable statistics on the incidence gender-based violence in Argentina. As a result of meeting with Magdalena, APP has not only established a great connection and partnership that will help produce this essential information, we may have even recruited another member of the IANSA International Women’s Network in the process!


This post first appeared on my Advocacy Project Blog

Asociación Para Políticas Publicas (the Association for Public Politics or APP) is an organization that focuses on working through public policy channels to affect positive change in the realm of disarmament and ending gun violence in Argentina and in the region. By signing onto the Disarming Domestic Violence (DDV) campaign, they have expressed their commitment to working towards raising awareness about the ways in which gun violence negatively (and disproportionately) affects women (especially within their homes) and to reducing the number of women affected by gun violence within the home.

Over the past six weeks of working with APP on the DDV Campaign in Argentina, I have been struck by the enormity of the task that IANSA and their partner organizations have set out to accomplish: ending gender-based gun-violence within the home in their countries and worldwide. How necessary and yet how enormous.  With a goal so large I have begun to ask myself and others, what are the causes of gender-based gun violence?  And with causes so numerous and complex, how do we know where to begin? How do we decide where to focus our energies and work? Surely they can’t possibly be tackled through just one or two single angles. Which are the angles that are necessary to tackle such a vast issue?  Which will have the highest impact on reducing domestic armed violence?

Two of the primary focuses of my work as an Advocacy Project Fellow on the DDV campaign include working towards harmonizing gun laws with domestic violence laws in Argentina, and the collection of statistics on the link between gun violence and domestic violence. Because APP is an organization that has tended towards working within the public policy realm, they have a strategic, comparative advantage in accomplishing the legal aims of the campaign.  APP maintains strong relationships with members of the Argentine government and continues to build on and leverage those relationships to improve domestic gun laws and disarmament.

Although the expertise amongst the small, hard-working staff at APP is not in the area of social work or data collection, they recognize that working solely on the level of public policy (changing national gun and domestic violence laws through talking with members of parliament and government) is not enough.  While working to prevent arms from getting in the hands of someone with a history of domestic violence, we cannot forget to address the socio-political, cultural, economic, and historical factors, amongst others, that contribute to a home, neighborhood, city, province, country, and world in which domestic armed violence continues to occur. That is why one of the first steps APP has taken in launching the DDV campaign in Argentina has been to develop a network of individuals, organizations, women’s groups, civil society members, government officials, academics, journalists, and others who are committed to ending gender-based gun violence.

Over the past couple of weeks I have been focused on helping APP develop this network, in an effort to build a bridge and foster collaboration between the individuals and groups already working on issues related to the campaign.  Oftentimes these members are working in isolation from one another, making their work more difficult, less efficient, and therefore sometimes also low impact.  Building a network will hopefully improve efficiency, help to expand the campaign’s support base, and expand the locations (family homes, community, nations) and angles from which this enormous problem can be tackled.

One of the many principles of strategic nonviolent movements and campaigns is the importance of building a broad base of support. The phase of building support for a movement or campaign can be seen as both a strategic and tactical move as doing so upfront will benefit future campaign actions. This is certainly the case for APP, who launched the DDV campaign in Argentina back in of June prior to developing an extensive network.  Future DDV campaign actions will greatly benefit from the strength of a diverse base of supporters that can put collective pressure on the media to cover these issues and draw attention to the campaign, pressure on the government to change domestic violence and gun laws, and apply forms of social pressure to begin changing behaviors. While building this base of support may not be easy, it does indeed seem necessary.

As the quote by Gloria Macapagal Arroyo goes, “The power of one, if fearless and focused, is formidable, but the power of many working together is better”.  I look forward to seeing the impact of the work we are doing to build this “power of many” for the Disarming Domestic Violence Campaign in Argentina.

Additional resource related to nonviolent conflict can be found on the following websites:
International Center on Nonviolent Conflict
Albert Einstein Institution
Center for Victims of Torture’s New Tactics in Human Rights – Nonviolent Action
War Resisters International
Center for Applied Nonviolent Actions and Strategies