PAHO, UNFPA, and the Intersectoral Protection Network in Brazil train indigenous, trans, migrant, and refugee women in gender

Boa Vista, October 22, 2022 – With the aim of training multipliers to prevent gender violence, the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) and the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) held a workshop in Boa Vista, in the state of Roraima, Brazil, in partnership with the Intersectoral Protection Network.

This Network has state, municipal and federal public services, such as the Casa da Mulher Brasileira – the place where the workshop was held and which integrates various institutions that work to protect women in situations of violence, such as the Special Court, Specialized Nucleus of the Justice Prosecutor’s Office, Specialized Nucleus of the Public Defender’s Office, Specialized Police Station for Attention to Women, transit accommodation, playroom and psychosocial support services and economic autonomy.

The initiative brought together 20 community leaders, including Venezuelan, Brazilian, and indigenous migrant and refugee women of the Warao and Eñepa ethnic groups. Through active methodologies, such as conversation circles and group dynamics, the participants were able to share experiences, knowledge and tools to implement actions to prevent violence against women in the community. The workshop was held between August 15 and 18 of this year.

Yorgelis Bastardo, an indigenous Warao woman and UNFPA cultural facilitator, said that the activity gave her knowledge and that she will now pass it on to other women in her community.

“The workshop was very important to me, because we nourished each other with knowledge. The concepts, dynamics and presentations helped me a lot to receive the knowledge and to prepare myself to transmit it to other women”, highlighted Yorgelis Bastardo.

Yorgelis Bastardo (em pé) | Photo Karina Zambrana/PAHO/WHO

During the training, the causes and types of violence, risk factors and prevention strategies, inequalities and gender roles, women’s rights, organization of the service and reception and care network, referral flows, Brazilian assistance legislation and protection, self-care, among others.

The action has the financial support of the Office of Population, Refugees and Migration of the Department of State of the United States.

Community Actions

During the workshop, the participants were motivated to promote actions to prevent violence against women in their communities. In the weeks after the training, roundtables were held, prevention and hygiene kits were distributed, and information brochures were distributed with the services for attention to cases of violence.

The activities, carried out in communities and in Operation Acolhida shelters, also included violence prevention actions and combined prevention of HIV and sexually transmitted infections (STIs) with sex workers in Boa Vista, as part of a project to strengthen local capacities in this area, carried out by PAHO, the Ministry of Health of Brazil and the Secretary of Health of the State of Roraima.

Operation Acolhida is the Brazilian government’s humanitarian response to the flow of the Venezuelan population into the country and has the support of various United Nations (UN) agencies and civil society.

The strengthening of health actions, including the empowerment of community leaders, is a fundamental dimension of the prevention of violence against women in humanitarian contexts.

Violence prevention action against women in the community, in Boa Vista (RR) | Photo: Karina Zambrana/PAHO/WHO

Migrations and gender violence

“We as immigrants experience many forms of discrimination. Many Venezuelans suffer violence, verbal abuse, in their jobs,” says Venezuelan Nilsa Hernández, one of the workshop participants, who also works as a combined HIV/STI prevention agent for PAHO.

Nilsa Hernandez (in yellow shirt) | Photo: Karina Zambrana/PAHO/WHO

He stressed the importance of access to information on rights, essential services, protection services, health and social assistance that we have available. We entered one way and came out another, with more strength to continue fighting, even knowing which institutions to turn to in a situation of violence, ”she concluded.

Prevention of violence against women

Data from the Brazilian Public Safety Forum on the incidence of violence against girls and women in Brazil indicate that, in 2021, one in four women over the age of 16 in the country (around 17 million people) claimed to have suffered some kind of of physical, psychological or sexual violence in the last 12 months. In the most vulnerable populations, such as migrant and refugee women, the risks of suffering violence are even greater, as are the barriers to access protection and shelter services. Initiatives such as the Workshop promoted in Boa Vista are important allies to reduce these impacts, multiplying the information accessible to these women and their communities.

Violence, in all its forms, can affect a woman’s health and well-being for the rest of her life, even long after the violence has ended. It is associated with increased risk of injury, depression, anxiety disorders, unplanned pregnancy, sexually transmitted infections, including HIV, and many other health problems. This has impacts on society as a whole and generates enormous costs, impacting national budgets and development.

Participant making annotations during the office | Photo: Karina Zambrana/PAHO/WHO

Preventing violence requires addressing systemic economic and social inequalities, ensuring access to education and safe work, and changing gender-discriminatory norms and institutions. Successful interventions also include strategies that ensure essential services are available and accessible to survivors, support women’s organizations, challenge unfair social norms, reform discriminatory laws, and strengthen legal responses, among others.

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Combined STI prevention project: Brazil

PAHO, UNFPA, and the Intersectoral Protection Network in Brazil train indigenous, trans, migrant, and refugee women in gender-based violence prevention – PAHO/WHO