Fida Development

The Wall of Silence Has Been Broken


Fida’s Latin American project has promoted equality of women and girls and prevented domestic violence and sexual abuse.

Anne Joensuu has been working for almost 30 years in Latin America in missions and development cooperation duties. Over the years she has encountered many of the dark sides of the macho culture.

- Men saw it as their right to hit and beat. The woman submitted herself to it, because she was afraid of what would happen, if she protested. There was no intervention; instead, it was often said that the woman had provoked the situation.

Even the church communities were not immune to these problems.

- I saw how women's opinions were not valued in Latin America, and on the other hand, how competent women they had there.

From prejudice to collaboration

Anne Joensuu started a regional project in Bolivia, Paraguay and Peru to motivate the church partners to enforce gender equality. The beginning of the gender work was not easy.

- In the beginning, there were huge prejudices. People were asking if that woman is now coming to tell us what to do, and there were fears that the wives would be brainwashed.
However, the churches were an important partner - especially in Latin America, where they are well established. In the end, the gender issues were received positively, and Anne Joensuu managed to get the churches enthusiastic about it.

- Once the men noticed that the women were not trying to compete with them, but instead had their own roles, they learned to appreciate the gender work.

Change starts at the churches

Project support from Fida ended in 2014, but the work continues with the local church resources.
Previously held taboos, such as domestic violence and sexual abuse, have been brought in to the open. The wall of silence has been broken. Similarly, it is now understood that issues of equality are important both to men and women.
Anne Joensuu also rejoices about the many changes that have occurred in Latin American churches.

- Women are now listened to more and they are given responsibility. Men and women work together. Men can even help in the kitchen duties without losing their masculinity. Previously that would have been considered terrible.

The learning materials produced by the project have proven to be such useful tools that other organisations have also wanted to use them.
Anne Joensuu, who now works as a Psychosocial Support Advisor in East Africa, has started using the same materials in Africa as well. The materials have been translated into English and Swahili.

- Here our partners have gone through the materials with professionals and added African content into them. It is really important that they did it themselves.

Results of the gender project

• The lives of approximately 45 000 people impacted in Bolivia, Paraguay and Peru.
• High-quality learning materials, which can be used in prevention of e.g. domestic violence and child sexual abuse.
• Educational authorities have allowed these learning materials to be presented in schools.
• Pentecostal churches have incorporated gender issues in their activities and are networking with other agents.



Published: 10.01.2017