Community Defense Councils in Cuzco, Peru, first place in the Experiences in Social Innovation contest in 2006, now are part of the governmental Regional programme on violence against women.
The regional government of Cuzco pledged to support and strengthen the work of community defense councils during the visit to Peru of Laura López, Secretary of the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), and Francisco Tancredi, Director for Latin America and the Caribbean of the W.K. Kellogg Foundation. López and Trancredi visited the first-place winner of the “Experiences in Social Innovation” contest in 2006: “Community Defense Councils: A community response to domestic violence”.
During a meeting with Fernando Romero, General Manager of Social Programmes at the Cuzco Regional Government, the first steps were taken to reach a cooperation and technical assistance agreement to strengthen the regional programme against domestic violence. “It is very satisfying to see a successful community experience being incorporated into State programmes, particularly on such a relevant issue as is violence against women,” said Laura López.
“Ten years ago, to meet with a mayor and work together was a dream. Now, we have moved on to a new stage. We can sit down with government officials to resolve problems. The support of the regional government will strengthen our work,” stated Rocío Franco, of the Legal Defense Institute (IDL), the organization that implemented the project.
The Community Defense Councils were created in 1999 to compensate the lack of State action against domestic violence. This makes the fact that government officials are now including a community experience in public policy even more relevant.
During their visit to Cuzco, the ECLAC and Kellogg Foundation representatives met with IDL personnel, as well as with the Defense Council Nueva Vida (New Life), residents of the Santiago District, and officials of the Departamental Coordinator of Community Defense Councils in Cuzco.
They also visited the community of Ccapi, almost five hours away from Cuzco, to attend a bilingual Quechua-Spanish assembly presided by mayor Ricardo Huarcaya. The assembly gathered community defense council teams, members of the Ronda Campesina (Farmer Patrol), in charge of vigilance in the district, and about 40 community residents.
At the meeting, Trancredi described their visit as very important “to see how communities organize to seek solutions, without depending on public officials or on others doing things for them.” “The work of the community defense councils shows that communities in Latin America have the power to organize, and we are very grateful to get to know them and be able to relay their experience to other communities facing similar problems.”
The mayor has supported the Community Defense Councils in Ccapi notably, with a significant number of defenders and the use of the participative budget model to channel funds to the Defense Councils, particularly for capacity-building activities.
x One of the conclusions of the meeting was that, in spite of the difficulties and initial rejection of both the communities and government officials towards the Defense Councils, today, the fact that the defenders understand the law and are aware of their rights, has won them general admiration and respect. “Before, we had many problems of violence, child maltreatment and alcoholism, but now they have diminished,” said community leader Mariano León.