Friday, November 6, 2009

Peru: Women of CODECC

From IPS News:
Ten years ago, a group of Cuzco women decided to take an organised stand against all forms of gender-based violence, focusing on encouraging other women to report their abuse and get help.

"We used to keep our heads down, but now we’re doing something about it. It’s never too late to start," Elsa Mamani, one of the activists, told IPS.

Mamani is a shy woman, has been all her life. So it’s even more surprising that at 52 she would become the heart of CODECC (Coordinadora Departamental de Defensor√≠as Comunitarias del Cusco), a vigorous organisation of women advocates formed to combat the widespread gender violence in their communities.

CODECC works in coordination with the justice system and state authorities, but its 500 members - mostly women - are volunteers from the communities themselves who are trained to help victims in the difficult step of reporting the abuse and supporting them through the whole legal process.

CODECC is an independent organisation with direct financing from international aid, although it forms part of a larger joint project implemented by the non-governmental Institute for Legal Counselling (IDL) and the Bartolomé de las Casas Centre.

World Bank studies reveal that Latin America has one of the world’s highest rates of violence against women. And levels are particularly high in Cuzco, where two out of every three women have suffered some form of sexual or physical violence, according to a survey conducted by the World Health Organisation (WHO) in 10 countries.

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