Protecting Women and Children in Latin America and the Caribbean During COVID-19

This week, we’re highlighting interventions from Latin America and the Caribbean that help keep women and children safe from violence, during the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond.


Editor’s Note:  At Together for Girls, we focus on data-driven solutions to prevent violence against children. During the COVID-19 pandemic, we’re highlighting evidence-based interventions, strategies, and resources with our “Solutions Spotlight” series.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, women and children face increased threats to their safety and well-being. On top of the challenges of fighting the pandemic, as families are quarantined and the global economy falters, women and children face an increased risk of violence in the home. Now more than ever, we need solutions that tackle the pressing issues of child abuse and domestic violence. This week, we’re highlighting solutions in Latin America and the Caribbean that help keep women and children safe and protected from violence, during the pandemic and beyond. 

1. Hotels In Bolivia Use “The Code” To Fight Child Sexual Exploitation


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With COVID-19 exacerbating poverty and food insecurity, children around the world are at a greater risk of sexual violence and sex tourism, as seoffenders prey on desperate families.


To help protect children from sexual exploitation, the travel and tourism industry in Bolivia, with help from ECPAT Bolivia, is using The Code to identify and respond to cases of child sexual abuse and exploitation. The Code is a global initiative to prevent child sexual exploitation within the tourism industry. 


Hotels in Bolivia use The Code’s criteria for protecting children by establishing child protection policies and procedures, in addition to training employees on how to identify and report child sexual exploitation. As a result, hotel staff learn to spot signs of child sexual exploitation and report incidences to help children in a timely manner. When a child or teen is seen travelling alone with someone much older and without identification, for example, receptionists know the right questions to ask to make sure the child is not being exploited. If they notice red flags, they follow the hotel’s child protection procedure and contact child protection services if needed. 

2. Bogota’s Supermarkets Become Safe Spaces For Women To Report Abuse


In Bogota, Colombia, the number of calls and messages to the government-run domestic abuse hotline has increased 160% since quarantine started. Across Colombia, 13 women have been murdered since the lockdown started, many killed by their partners or husbands in their homes. In Buenos Aires, calls to the government-run abuse helpline have risen by 60% during the lockdown. 


While cases of domestic violence rise as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown, data shows that it can be difficult and unsafe for women to report incidents. Women at home with their abusers during lockdown may put themselves at risk if they try to call for help, and many women do not have the information they need on how to receive help. To help tackle domestic violence in Bogota, Colombia, the mayor’s office launched a campaign called #SafeSpaces for victims of violence to get help.


As part of the #SafeSpaces campaign, victims of violence in Bogota can seek help from store managers in over 630 supermarkets as well as pharmacies. There are also posters in shop windows and online promoting the #SafeSpaces campaign, as a way of ensuring that victims of violence know where and how to receive help.

3. Women’s Organizations in Haiti Collaborate to Fight Gender-Based Violence


Haiti is another country that has seen a sharp rise in cases of domestic violence during the COVID-19 pandemic, as unemployment heightens family tensions.


Since the initial COVID-19 outbreak, a number of women’s organizations in Haiti have stepped up to prevent gender-based violence (GBV). One such organization, the Rassemblement des femmes engagées de Ouanaminthe (RFEO), works to fight GBV and support survivors through economic empowerment. 


RFEO records cases of violence using a database, and since COVID-19, they have seen a significant increase in cases of domestic violence. In response, RFEO increased its efforts to raise awareness against GBV and collaborate with other organizations to offer support to women and girls affected. 


“We will use several means such as radio broadcasts, neighborhood entertainment, and even theatre,” explains Roseleine Pierre, Coordinator of RFEO, discussing RFEO’s advocacy work.

On 8 March, a child’s sandaled feet dangle off the ground, at a safe house outside Monrovia, the capital. The UNICEF-supported home, run by the Liberian NGO THINK (Touching Humanity in Need of Kindness), provides counselling, psychosocial support, basic education and vocational and life-skills training, including on reproductive health and HIV/AIDS awareness, for survivors of sexual and gender-based violence. [#2 IN SEQUENCE OF TWO]  From 7 to 8 March 2009 in Liberia, women leaders and other high-level delegates from around the world gathered in Monrovia, the capital, for the International Colloquium for Women’s Empowerment, Leadership Development, International Peace and Security. The meeting, held to coincide with International Women’s Day (March 8), was hosted by President of Liberia Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and President of Finland Tarja Halonen. UNICEF Deputy Executive Director Hilde F. Johnson was among attendees at the Colloquium, which brought together almost 1,000 Heads of State and Government, representatives from United Nations and NGO organizations, academic institutions and civil society, young people and other participants. The creation of the Angie Brooks International Centre on Women’s Empowerment, Leadership Development, International Peace and Security was also announced at the meeting. The International Centre, which focuses on research, training, leadership development and advocacy, was established to implement actions emerging from the Colloquium. It is named after the late Angie Brooks, a former Permanent Representative of Liberia to the United Nations and Africa’s first woman President of the United Nations 24th General Assembly (1969).

There are actions we can all take – whether as parents, educators, or policymakers – to prevent and reduce violence.

To learn more, visit our COVID-19 resource hub

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