no longer put up with being slapped around. Today we expect
men to talk with us and show us respect,” said Silvia,
one of 200 women participating in an innovative Argentine
Red Cross project in Rosario de la Frontera, a northern town
of 28,000 people.
In Rosario de la Frontera there are no cinemas and no public
transport. One quarter of the town’s population lives
beneath the poverty line. But it is a town where women are
Although there are no official statistics on violence against
women in Rosario de la Frontera, or in Argentina as a whole,
abuse is believed to be widespread. Across South America crime
and violence rates are six times higher than on other continents.
Spanish researcher Antonio Sáez estimates that 30 to
75 per cent of Latin American women suffer emotional abuse
and 10 to 30 per cent are physically abused.
Violence against women is a worldwide phenomenon. According
to the United Nations Population Fund, one in five women will
be a victim of rape or attempted rape in her lifetime. One
in three will have been beaten, coerced into sex or otherwise
abused, usually by a family member or an acquaintance.
“Violence kills and disables as many women between
the ages of 15 and 44 as cancer. Its toll on women’s
health surpasses that of traffic accidents and malaria combined,”
concludes a United Nations Population Fund study from 2005.
Mostly the erpetrators go unpunished.
Rosario de la Frontera, which lies 1,200 kilometres north-east
of the capital, Buenos Aires, was chosen for a pilot project
on gender violence because the problem was believed to be
widespread here and the Red Cross branch had good links with
Gabriela Luna, project coordinator at the Rosario de la Frontera
branch, remembers how it began.
“We started working with a group of women who were
already suffering from violence-related problems. First we
organized workshops with these women, conducted an assessment
and continued working with non-governmental organizations,
government departments and other institutions such as the
“We all ended up concluding that violence was an urgent
matter that no one was addressing,” she said.
In 2004, with the support of the International Federation
and the Swedish Red Cross, the Rosario de la Frontera branch
began its campaign, ‘Different People – Equal
The branch held meetings to raise awareness and help participants
reflect on the problem of violence against women. They ran
workshops on sexuality, body awareness and entrepreneurship,
organized sports and arts events such as plays, trained professionals
and volunteers, and harnessed the power of newspapers, television