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.
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!
Posted By Athea Middleton-Detzner
Posted Jul 31st, 2009