Making public spaces safe so women can thrive in Argentina: Interview with Leticia Echavarri of CISCSA


Territory workshop with women’s groups and organisations on diversities in the region Villa María Córdoba, Argentina. Credit: CISCSA

Across the world, simply walking down a street, travelling on public transport, enjoying a park or using a public toilet can expose women and girls to risks of many forms of violence: from unwanted sexual remarks to rape and femicide. This is true for many women and girls in Argentina, especially those with diverse gender identities and bodies.

Alongside other initiatives, the women-led Centro de Intercambio y Servicios para el Cono Sur Argentina (CISCSA) has been working for many years to end violence against women and girls in public spaces. Supported by a small grant from the UN Trust Fund to End Violence against Women (UN Trust Fund) under the EU/UN Spotlight Initiative, CISCSA has been implementing the “Somos Territorios” (“We are Territories”) project in three cities of Cordoba province (Río Cuarto, Villa María and Cruz del Eje). The project is empowering local women’s rights organizations and facilitating strategic alliances between key actors in order to restore the right of women and girls to safely use and enjoy public spaces.

We talked with Leticia Echavarri, coordinator of the project, about how CISCSA is helping to make public spaces safer and more inclusive in Argentina.

How can safe and inclusive public spaces contribute to reducing gender inequalities?

Dark streets, uninhabited spaces and public transport often facilitate harassment, abuse and other violence against women. Cities and neighbourhoods need to be inclusive and considerate of people’s daily lives, needs and desires, which are not the same for everyone. Our approach of feminist urbanism proposes planning cities with a gender perspective, which means placing inequality in daily life and the violence we experience at the centre of the debate. This must be a multi-stakeholder debate and advocacy project where voices of women in all their diversity are heard.

Why is it important to have the full and meaningful participation of women, especially those in marginalized communities, in claiming their rights?

Violence against women and girls must be addressed through an intersectional and multicultural lens in order to make visible the continuum of violence that women experience in social, economic and spatial arenas. Women’s limited access to socio-economic opportunities and their restricted freedom of movement directly cause poverty, inequality and territorial segregation. Therefore, ensuring women’s participation and empowering feminist organizations are key to CISCSA’s work.

Our project uses an approach that creates opportunities for women and feminist organizations to identify forms of violence against women in public spaces, and to share their individual and collective experiences.

From these discussions, we map strategies for resistance. These include:

  • training women and feminist organizations on feminist urbanism;
  • collecting data by mapping violence against women in public spaces, which contributes to policy advocacy; and
  • leading a public campaign “Alerta, Alerta, la Ciudad es Nuestra” (“Attention, Attention, the City is Ours”) in which local organizations jointly advocate for unique responses to violence against women in public spaces in their region.
Group photo. Credit: CISCSA

How has CISCSA worked with key stakeholders so they become allies with a shared agenda of ensuring public spaces are safe and inclusive for all?

Since the start of the “We are Territories” project, several agreements have been made with local governments to develop and provide training to technical officials, and to improve the understanding of their role in preventing violence and guaranteeing the “right to the city” of all citizens, especially women and girls in all their diversity.

We also train journalists and media professionals on documenting violence against women in public spaces, and collaborate with the National University of Villa Maria and National University of Tucuman to produce knowledge and data.

Could you describe the mobile app you developed?

The “Tramas en Acción” (“Plots in Action”) mobile app contains data on where violence against women and girls occurs in public spaces — based on information provided by communities, neighbourhood organizations and programmes linked to this topic — as well as other resources.

Users of the app can identify forms of gender-based violence in public spaces, access information about how to respond in emergencies and file a complaint, and where to find support organizations, among other things. The app also has a section sharing women survivors’ experiences in seeking assistance. The app can be downloaded to function offline, so it remains accessible even in areas with limited connectivity.

To learn more about the prevention of violence against women and girls, check out our Learning from Practice series and explore the 10 identified pathways to prevention: click here.



UN Trust Fund to End Violence against Women

The UN Trust Fund to End Violence against Women is the only global grant-making mechanism dedicated to eradicating all forms of #VAWG.