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Spanish Cooperation fights gender-based violence in around 20 countries

The State Secretaries for International Cooperation, Pilar Cancela, and for Foreign and Global Affairs, Ángeles Moreno Bau, inaugurated at Casa Árabe a public event which focused on child marriage and violence against migrant women

November 25, 2022
In commemoration of International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, the State Secretary for International Cooperation held the 25N event entitled “Feminist cooperation against violence towards women and girls around the world”, which focused on child marriage and violence against migrant women.

The act was inaugurated by Pilar Cancela Rodríguez, the State Secretary for International Cooperation, who stated that “Spanish Cooperation reaffirms its commitment to feminism, the fight against male violence and effective equality between men and women. Only a society in which women do not suffer from violence for being women can be considered completely free; only a democracy free from male violence is a full democracy”.

“One in three women around the world has suffered from violence at least once in her lifetime. This is an unacceptable fact. We must close the door on this and on new phenomena like digital violence, which hugely affects women”, added the State Secretary for Foreign and Global Affairs, Ángeles Moreno Bau.

Irene Lozano, Director of Casa Árabe, declared that “awareness of this phenomenon has increased, but a space has also opened up for those who wish to break the consensus that had existed to condemn and halt gender-based violence”.

Fight against forced marriages

At the first round table of the day, Mario Fanjul, General Coordinator of Spanish Cooperation in Ethiopia, explained how the Spanish Agency for International Development Cooperation (Spanish acronym: AECID) is working in Ethiopia, “pushing through a programme of feminist cooperation that addresses the structural aspects of gender inequalities and violence against women and girls”.

Specifically, Mario Fanjul focused on the AECID initiatives to do away with child marriages and female genital mutilation, which provide support to the Ethiopian National Alliance to this end. This alliance is headed up by the Ministry for Women and Social Affairs, which gathers together various specialist social organisations along with public entities. “Furthermore, the agency provides support for Setaweet – one of the few feminist movements in Ethiopia – to strengthen its women’s groups, particularly those that work with married girls, for which they have developed a specific methodology”, explained Mario Fanjul.

This methodology was specifically explained by Frezer Abera, a feminist sociologist and member of Setaweet, who described the system of self-care spaces for Ethiopian adolescents who are victims of marriages entered into before the legally permitted age. At the same session, Ethiopian Abebaw Bogale, Coordinator of the National Alliance to bring an end to child marriage and female genital mutilation, explained how this network of public and private organisations which, under the leadership of the Ministry of Women, is pushing through a roadmap to abolish child marriage and female genital mutilation by 2030, operates. The round table also included the participation of Ana Güezmes, Chief of the Gender Affairs Division of the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), and Rocío Muñoz, Regional Gender Adviser of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA).​

Women in human mobility

The second round table, on violence toward women in human mobility,​ included the participation of Peggy Martinello, Director of Public Administration and Social Affairs of FIIAPP (the Spanish Cooperation authority that addresses public policies), who reviewed the different policies, laws and rules implemented by Spanish institutions abroad to provide international protection to the victims of gender-based violence in such regions as Latin America, prevent and dismantle people trafficking networks in Nigeria and Niger and incorporate specific police protocols for victims in Lebanon.

This round table also involved the participation of Carolina Pacheco, who supervises the handling of gender-based violence cases in the humanitarian response of UNFPA in Colombia; Juan Carlos Pacheco, Regional Adviser and Communication Manager of HIAS in Latin America and the Caribbean; and Benedetta Lettera, Head of Operations for Latin America and the Philippines for Action against Hunger. They addressed the reasons for the unprecedented increase in displacements in the region.

Two out of every ten displaced people in the region are girls and adolescents, accounting for 20%, according to data from the UNDP. On many occasions, they take dangerous and illegal routes, which increases the risks to their safety. Eighty per cent of rapes in the region are committed against girls and adolescents aged 10 to 14, and 90% of these cases take place in a context of repeat rapes. Sexual and gender-based violence is, in many cases, the very reason for their displacement. Not only are migrant women and girls more exposed, but they have less access to basic services and protection. In the Central American corridor, Spanish Cooperation provides humanitarian aid to migrants, with a special focus on the prevention of gender-based violence and protection and care for women and girls who are the victims of violence. 

Spanish Cooperation – feminist cooperation 

​At present, “Spanish Cooperation finances more than 20 specific projects in the fight against gender-based violence, as well as many other projects in which the fight against the violence suffered by women and girls forms an essential part", stated Antón Leis, President of AECID, in the closing speech.

The commitment of Spanish Cooperation to eliminate all forms of violence against women and girls in both public and private spheres, including people trafficking and sexual exploitation, along with other types of exploitation, is absolute", stated Pilar Cancela, before adding that “this is reflected in its initiatives, both those that provide support to such international bodies as the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and UN Women and its contribution to academia, women's and feminist associations and its alliances with civil society in general".​