Resistance against violence is feminine – 07/03/2023 – Ilona Szabó de Carvalho

This March 8th, I am honored to receive the Bertha Lutz Diploma in the Senate alongside six incredible women, protagonists in the defense of gender issues in Brazil.

I receive the right award that I didn’t arrive and I’m not alone in the fight for a better country for our women and girls. This diploma is recognition of the tireless work of so many partners with whom I have shared challenges and achievements so far, especially the team at Instituto Igarapé, an organization I founded and which has always been composed and led mainly by courageous, engaged women with the will and ability to make a difference.

In these years, we have built bridges and common agendas for the most pressing social problems — whether in public safety, digital or climate. And we collaborate with more inclusive and efficient public policies, including the gender perspective in all areas.

In Brazil, between 2010 and 2020, almost 2 million women reported being victims of violence —physical, psychological, property, among others, according to data from the EVA platform, which we created to inform public policies aimed at the prevention, reduction and elimination of violence against women in Latin America. In 2021, 40% of female homicide victims were murdered by firearms. It is no coincidence that the Igarapé Institute has been working on the gun and ammunition control agenda for years.

Added to this is the exponential growth of female incarceration –between 2000 and 2019, the number of women deprived of their liberty has increased by almost six times–, with precarious conditions in prison, interruption of family ties and low access to social insertion programs. The entry of these women into prison is largely motivated by drug-related offenses.

In this scenario, the Igarapé Institute promotes professional training and work for female prisoners and ex-prisoners —to make it possible to break cycles of violence and reduce recidivism— and monitors advances in the areas of prevention, treatment, care and rehabilitation in drug policies in the countries of the Americas with a gender perspective.

And we went further: we supported Brazil’s international commitment to the Women, Peace and Security agenda and joined the Bertha Lutz Working Group, responsible for preparing the National Action Plan on the subject.

In the climate security agenda, women play a key role in protecting the environment and, therefore, have been the target of various types of violence. From 2012 to 2019, 80 thousand cases of violence were registered in the Legal Amazon. The attacks suffered represent not only a personal risk to each of them but to the rights, livelihoods and peoples they defend. Its protection is, therefore, essential and the Igarapé has been working for this.

In addition to Amazon defenders, activists, scientists, journalists and other prominent voices in the public debate began to be intimidated, threatened and murdered for defending issues relevant to the consolidation of democracy in our country. The culture of misogyny and machismo has gained traction with the rising wave of authoritarian and populist leaders who attack women who are on the front lines fighting for rights, be they political, human or environmental.

The Igarapé Institute identified 3,088 threats to civic space between 2021 and 2022, with women being the preferred victims in many cases. On the other hand, we also identified resistance actions by female leaders, who bravely protected our democracy: denouncing abuse and violence, defending science and education, protecting the environment, and inspiring other women to engage in the defense of our rights.

That’s how we got here and that’s how we’ll continue. Our resistance has been and will continue to be female.

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