In Timbio, Colombia, youth take a stand against street harassment
Date: Friday, February 3, 2017
“I never thought about the importance of women’s role and the violence they live with in the community until now…It has been very gratifying to have been part of the initiative that led to the enactment of this Decree,” says Jesús David Zúñiga, 21, from the township of Timbío, in the south-west part of Colombia. He is referring to the recently adopted, first-ever municipal decree to prevent violence against women in Timbio.
Jesús David was among 27 young people who participated at a workshop organized by UN Women to prevent violence against women and build non-violent masculinities. Equipped with the training, David and his group involved the local municipal authorities in a project to end street harassment against women and girls, a common problem in his community It led to the development and adoption of a Municipal Decree by the Mayor, to sensitize the public and prevent all forms of violence and discrimination against women, including street harassment. By this law, inappropriate expressions, verbal abuse and practices such as whistling at women in the streets is now banned.
The workshop is part of the programme, “Overcoming Violence Against Women”, implemented by UN Women in partnership with the US Agency for International Development (USAID) in the provinces of Meta and Cauca. Through street performances, theatre, radio and social media messages developed in collaboration with the ‘Women, Art and Life Foundation’ (‘Fundación Mujer, Arte y Vida’ in Spanish), the programme has reached almost 400 people, sensitizing them about the issue. To make people aware of the new law, UN Women has also promoted the transmission of messages on the local radio and through videos, and facilitated the installation of posters and banners at traffic stops, where incidents of street harassment are common.
Today Jesús David is a self-proclaimed women’s rights activist. “Friends from other communities have encouraged us to keep working and asked us for help to do the same in their communities”. The programme has influenced his personal life too--his perception of his own masculinity and his relationship with women has changed. “I used to say that women are weak and sentimental… and men must be strong. Now I realize these ideas are nothing but prejudices and I feel that I have the opportunity to be different by expressing my feelings. Leaving (the old) paradigms behind has allowed me to become more authentic”.