Warning: Machismo Kills. How One City in Colombia is Putting Women First

Joaquín Sarmiento/FNPI

If you’ve ever had the notion that your big strong male partner is going to protect you and provide for you, you are not alone. This cultural norm runs particularly deep in Latin cultures, where the term machismo is positively identified by traditional men who see it as their duty to protect and provide for their families. But the negative implications of machismo — violence, rigid gender roles, and the expectation that men should maintain financial control of the family — can have devastating impacts for women and children.

This article about The City of Women, a place on the outskirts of the Colombian city Turbaco, is a fascinating window into how women can come together to protect and care for other, more marginalized women in their communities.

The article, written by Marie Doezema, is published by CityLab, a collaborative project with The Atlantic. CityLab also runs a yearly conference, with the 2016 conference having a wide range of sponsors including Bloomberg Philanthropies, the Aspen Institute, GM, JPMorgan Chase, and Knight Foundation as Underwriters, McKinsey & Co. as Knowledge Partners, AARP and BASF as Supporting Partners, and The Miami Foundation, and Pfizer as Contributing Partners. The 2017 conference will be held in Paris, France, from October 22-24, 2017.

The City of Women is a refuge built by women for women and families. It consists of 98 houses that serve as sanctuary for women in need of shelter. Completed in 2006, The City of Women is responding to the increased violence in Colombia over the past decade as fighting has continued between government, paramilitary, and insurgent forces.

The City of Women grew out of the vision of Patricia Guerrero, a human rights lawyer from Bogota, who founded the Liga de Mujeres Desplazadas, or League of Displaced Women, in 1999. Initial funding for the City of Women, which began construction in 2003, came from the Colombian government, the US Congress, and the UN High Commissioner for Refugees. Organizers of the City of Women continue to seek funders to create more housing.

From the article:

One of the first things you notice upon entering the City of Women is how many men there are. In this sense, it could be any other neighborhood; men of all ages sit on porches and on motorcycles, walk the sidewalks and visit the smattering of shops selling cold drinks, snacks, and phone credit. Men are not barred from the City of Women as they, too, are victims of displacement and violence. The difference here, though, is that in a sharp detour from patriarchal traditions, it’s the women who own the houses and the Liga, made up entirely of women, who make community decisions.

Though there have been workshops and anti-machismo training for men living in the community, true change, particularly among older generations, remains a challenge. Machismo has been reduced “very little,” says Guerrero, adding that she holds out hope for the younger generation. “The fact that women own the houses intensifies the violence,” she says. “But the young ones who grew up in the city have seen a different model. They have been raised with a process, but the adults are still machismo; there is still violence and discrimination against women.”

Read the full article here.

 

Kiersten Marek

Author: Kiersten Marek

Kiersten Marek, LICSW, is the founder of Philanthropy Women. She practices clinical social work in Cranston, Rhode Island, and writes about how women donors and their allies are advancing social change.

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