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Online Consulting Service on Domestic Violence - Bolivia

Project focusing on empowering women facing domestic violence in low-income urban districts using innovative web2.0 tools

Bolivia

Governance

Casa de la Mujer

2001-06-30



on the ground project

Women


The On-line consulting service on domestic violence project in Bolivia unites female victims of domestic violence in an online network. In this network they are completely anonymous, which makes them feel more secure about opening up and discussing their problems with other victims through computer programs such as Skype and via email. Women who become victims of domestic abuse often find it hard to approach legal institutions for help. This problem will also be addressed in the program. Another aspect of the project is to develop and broadcast regular radio programs and radio spots featuring stories of victims of domestic violence. To complement the above, three communication centres will also be set up in three different districts and will be run by women’s organisations.

Because of all the problems, conventional methods of capacity development to fight domestic violence against women have proven to be insufficient. The situation calls for new innovative solutions to address the problems in Bolivia.

The innovative technologies in the program introduce new ways of developing the capacity of the target group. It makes it possible to address problems where conventional methods fail. Moreover, the use of new communication technologies such as internet and email saves time, bridges physical distances and allows the women to participate anonymously. The program, therefore, shows how innovative ICTs can be used to help empower female victims of domestic violence.

The idea of the program is to promote the unification of women victims of domestic violence by providing them with access to a virtual platform. In addition, an online consulting service will also be made available to women at risk from all socio-economic and educational classes and who need to get legal support. 


The problems of domestic violence are normally silenced by the prevailing ‘machismo’, a form of sexism or male chauvinism. Problems are also silenced by the passivity of the women who find themselves unable to react and break free from the cycle of violence. In general, these women tend to be isolated and do not participate in any functional organisation in the area. This is mostly because their working day is twice or three times as long as a normal one, which leaves them little time for other activities.

Another problem is that these women are normally shy and inhibited due to the violent environment created at home by their husbands. As a consequence of this, their participation is always individual. Moreover, existing institutions assigned to address problems of domestic violence often fail and do not reach the target group.

In addition, due to the long distances, it is also very hard to unite women. The abused women often live far away from other women with the same problems and getting in touch with them is very hard.

Read more about IICD's Bolivia Country Programme. 


  • An upgrade and improvement of on-line legal services on the web site. Through email and a webpage the women now have access to legal counselling services and psychological guidance as well through the online consulting service www.casadelamujer.org.bo. Hitherto over 250 consults are made online, most of which are from under 25 year old women working as selfemployed (housekeeping, washing). Most abuses consulted on are either sexual, pysical or combinations of these;
  • Weekly dissemination of real-life stories about domestic violence through the Radio Alternativa radio station, linked to the Casa de la Mujer which reached 150,000 listeners every day;

  • Publication of real-life stories of victims in the form of short radio interviews and weblogs on the website, with facilities of feed back by readers and listeners;
  • A series of public discussion events to inform and discuss domestic violence issues and to promote the on-line service among university students;
  • Installation of 6 information centres in low-income districts of Santa Cruz. The centres are set up on the basis of agreements with community organisations and local governments;
  • Training of 600 women in the use of ICT, the use of the on-line legal services and in legal rights issues by a team of female community leaders supported by students;
  • Introduction of new web2.0 tools such as FaceBook to support the development of a self-help network of women discussing issues related to domestic violence;
  • Participation in an international workshop on ICT and gender in the Netherlands organized by IICD and PSO.

With the right tools, people in developing countries can considerably improve their livelihoods and quality of life. Better access to information and communication technology (ICT) is particularly vital in enabling them to achieve their goals. This is why the International Institute for Communication and Development (IICD) creates practical and sustainable solutions that connect people and enable them to benefit from ICT. As an independent not-for-profit foundation, we put knowledge, innovation and finance to work with partners from the public, private and not-for profit sectors. Together, we can make a world of difference.

Ondas Libres’ general objective is to build the capacity of female victims of domestic and familial violence in Bolivia through the use of innovative ICT methods. This empowers women to participate proactively in the fight against domestic violence.

Specific objectives are:

  • Exchange experiences – The women are able to exchange experiences through a social network (web2.0 and mobile) on domestic violence;

  • Breaking barriers – The women feel more inclined to talk about their experiences online with peers;

  • Consult – The women are able to use the online legal consulting service on domestic violence;

  • Making ICT available - Making ICT applications readily available and easily accessible to female victims of domestic violence.

The program will train and support over 600 women in three of the poorest districts in the city of Santa Cruz de la Sierra: Pampa de la Isla, Villa Primero de Mayo and Plan Tres Mil.


Based on impact measurement among participating women, the impact has been very strong since the start in 2001:

  • Satisfaction has been high according to 90% of the users;
  • 70% of the participants indicate high levels of awareness and empowerment, mounting to 90% in 2009;
  • The impact on transparancy and political participation of the users has also increased sharly in 2009 with up to 85% of the users recognising a string impact in this aspect.

As for the more general impacts we can indicate in addition:

  • Victims of domestic violence willing to share their experience with the wider public via radio and weblogs were found to be very relieved to be able to tak about their experience for the first time through participation in the project;
  • Comments of users: “Thanks to this project we are better informed about our position as women in the society and our rights to defend our interest, particularly about our physical, moral and financial integrity";
  • Comment of users: "Posting stories of women on the radio and the webpage has motivated a lot of other women to break the silence".

 Read more about IICD's approach towards Governance.


A number of lessons were learned from the firts pilot phase:

  • It was easier than expected to find a small number of victims who were prepared to share their experiences via the radio and the weblogs. It has proved harder, however, to find a larger group of women from low-income urban districts to participate on a regular basis when sessions are organised in public (tele)centres.
  • While participating women were very eager, it is found very difficult to motivate a larger group of women from low-income urban districts to participate on a regular basis when sessions are organised in public telecentres. Therefore the project envisions to set up telecentres in the districts and run by women organisations;
  • In general, the women who participate in the program have indicated that using online tools such as the online legal services and weblogs is useful, but complicated. Although they were able to learn about online tools, it requires many more training courses for participants during regular basic ICT training sessions.


Casa de la Mujer is a womens' movement in Bolivia with political influence that lobbies for womens' rights and the right for women to live without violence.

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Project fact file
Country: Bolivia
Sector: Governance
Type: on the ground project
Status: implementation
Start date: June 2001
Project owner: Casa de la Mujer
Beneficiary: Women
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