‘Safe Spaces’ for victims of domestic violence continues to grow

In addition to Safe Spaces, the District has different services and programs for women to exercise their rights with continuous attention 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Piece: Women's Secretariat. In addition to Safe Spaces, the District has different services and programs for women to exercise their rights with continuous attention 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Piece: Women's Secretariat.
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Linked to the ‘Safe Spaces’ strategy, Cencosud, with its Jumbo and Metro supermarkets; Las Gatas warehouses and Movistar Experience Centers; which seeks to help women who are victims of violence in their homes. We welcome women to come through our doors and accept out assistance.

With these companies well-integrated into the ‘Safe Spaces’ strategy, Bogotá goes from having a network of 637 to 1,038 commercial establishments. Cencosud, with its Jumbo and Metro supermarkets, Las Gatas and the Movistar Experience Centers, will now be "Safe Spaces" where women who suffer any form of violence, physical or otherwise, can go and speak with someone. Victims need not remain victims, there is help available, they are not alone.

These companies join D1, Justo & Bueno, Farmatodo, Tostao´, and Altoque de Terpel service stations, allied since 2020.

The idea is to reach out to anyone who might be in immediate risk and offer them a life-line. The clerk can make a discrete phone call to the authorities or a specialist who can guide them through the following steps. the Secretariat for Women will be all too keen to hear about this or any type of grief that might arise from a bleak household.

Bogotá Mayor, Claudia López had this to say, “The squares, supermarkets and neighbourhood shops never closed during the pandemic, out of necessity, this is how 'Safe Spaces' arose, as an urgent response to a hardship that could not be ignored. We could not outright suspend the services for receiving complaints of domestic violence, instead, we have to create channels against this form of violence and shut it down wherever we find it.”

Mayor López admitted that “the pandemic forced us to go into quarantine, most of us labour under that idyllic image that the house is a safe haven. But this is simply not true for 87% of women who are victims of violence. There, the vast majority of cases of rape and aggression against girls and women occur, and the worst thing is, they are raped and assaulted in their very homes." Mayor López went on to say that, "the only thing worse than not taking the first step is to not do anything. To live in fear and silence.”

Secretary for Women, Diana Rodríguez Franco added that precisely "since 2020, at a key moment of confinement due to the pandemic, we managed to save the lives of 27 women with the ‘Safe Spaces’ strategy. Now, we are expanding the service so that more women are encouraged to take that vital first step. It is important that they keep in mind that more and better channels are available to them to help them take that second step. These women count on the full support of the Secretariat and the entire District.”

In turn, Secretary of Security, Co-existence and Justice, Aníbal Fernández de Soto explained that to deal with this type of violence, “specific teams are formed in which there are trained professionals who are at the public’s disposal. They know the particularities from each neighbourhood, from each locality, they work on conflict resolution. the Secretariat for Women will always have people on hand; a member of the Metropolitan Police, specialised in Human Rights; and we always co-ordinate with the Prosecutor's Office or the Family Police Station.”

Secretary de Soto was full of praise for the CUIDadanas Network, in which neighbours and authorities have put a highly alert response system in place to prevent if possible, but to react to any situation. When it comes to commercial establishments, security fronts can be made. With regard to the CUIDadanas Network, one of the 193 officials we hav scattered all over the city will be on hand; while there are already 92 security fronts that have been strengthened and re-activated.

Second stage. Better protocols

For this new phase, the 'Safe Spaces' strategy has been adjusted to respond to any call quickly and efficiently. In emergency situations or if the woman requests it, a call is made to the Emergency Response Line 123 to co-ordinate their immediate protection. Or if the situation requires, the Secretariat for Women is a phone call away to offer psychosocial or socio-legal attention.

According to DANE, 65% of people with disabilities do not have Internet access at home This creates a huge disconnect with the world around them, and as a result some acts of violence go unseen. The Movistar Experience Centers is taking a step further and offering a more inclusive service to women who are deaf/mute.

So far in 2021, the District Secretariat for Women has raised awareness and carried out training exercises and workshops that empower women to live free of such petty violence and take their lives and well-being back into their own hands.

Soon ‘Safe Spaces’ will establish a network of 40 neighbourhood stores, strategically placed in areas identified as unsafe for women. As per phase two, community and institutional responses are on standby to help co-ordinate situations of violence against women.

“This initiative has allowed us to reach out further than we’ve done before to those who need us most,“ District Secretary for Women, Diana Rodríguez Franco stated, “It might inspire those who are too scared to act. Our goal is to reach more and more women each day and provide them with timely support; it is important that they feel that they are not alone and that in Bogotá we work together with the public in alliance with the private sector to guarantee their right to live without fear and without violence.”

"This can no longer be neither a vague strategy nor a campaign talking point," emphasised Mayor Claudia López on behalf of the District Care System. "That is what I would say to our nine allies. Embrace this District Care System. The main burden of care falls squarely on the shoulders of women without having to deal with such terrible acts of violence. This burden demands attention and sacrifice to the point that women put aside their own ambitious to care for those around them, all of it unpaid, unappreciated. This is the burden that women face especially the further into the country we go.”

In that sense, Mayor López then pointed out that "if we want to relieve women of that burden, we have to join efforts -- public and private -- to create a network of facilities and services."

Recognitions and new contributions

In the framework of the re-launch, one part of the outreach campaign was the student initiative from the Design Faculty of the Universidad de los Andes, who wanted to join the fight against machismo and presented their proposal to the Secretariat for Women. Their work recreates daily conversations on WhatsApp, to expose situations of violence against women and raise awareness in public opinion. This initiative was welcomed and is now part of the new digital dissemination campaign.

‘Safe Spaces’ has become a benchmark of co-responsibility, in 2020 it received international recognition from the New York Times as an innovative strategy implemented in Latin America that protects women during the pandemic. In this recognition, it is highlighted as a great achievement to involve the private sector, with the involvement of companies, not to mention the education sector.

According to Juan Esteban Orrego, executive director of FENALCO Bogotá Cundinamarca, "Commerce is committed not only to bio-safety, but also to creating safe spaces for women, so that they can carry on with their lives. To make a change, and start a process that allows them to leave the violent circle that they live in at home. We are sure that the businesses that join this campaign are prepared to guide them and offer them a different path with the utmost discretion."

Real case

During the discussion, Secretary Rodríguez commented on a case that was successfully attended to thanks to ‘Safe Space.’

“One day a woman entered one of the allied stores, she approached and asked for the store manager. She went to where he was and she handed him a paper with her name and phone number and said: 'I can't speak right now because the aggressor is with me in the store, but call me at 7 at night. I’ll be able to speak then.” said the official.

“The store manager, following the training we had done, understood that this was an important case and immediately reported it to the Secretariat for Women, just as it happened. At 7 pm we called the woman, she was able to speak. She is a woman with whom we managed to prevent violence against.”