This profile was prepared when Rosario Valdez was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 1989.
The New Idea
Building on what she learned as a student leader and during her research on violence against women, Rosario set out to fight domestic violence. She founded the Center for Researching and Combating Domestic Violence (CECOVID), and she and her colleagues there are launching a broad-ranging attack on domestic violence and disrespect of women's rights.The first step in Rosario's approach is to make domestic violence visible, to have it recognized for what it is. Even this initial step requires enormous cultural sensitivity.She has just started working in one of Mexico City's poor peripheral barrios. Gradually getting the women to begin to recognize and discuss -- very discreetly -- this taboo subject requires both time and the creation of safe opportunities. Creativity and persistence are critical to working with women who have been abused.In the process, Rosario is creating a detailed community case study of the extent and nature of the problem. As important, she is deepening her own understanding of its root causes, of the attitudes and customs that perpetuate it, and of its far-reaching personal and family ramifications. Since she is working in a poor urban neighborhood, what she is documenting and learning probably applies to many millions of Mexican families. To complement her local study of the problem, she is also gathering whatever general data she can find for the rest of the country.Even as this information accumulates, Rosario is putting it to good use -- both in the community where she is working and more broadly. In the community, the picture she is compiling serves as a mirror that helps the women there see their situation more clearly. On a broader stage, her ability to define the nature and extent of the problem is beginning to get others to focus. She is especially working with women's groups across the country to try to develop a coordinated plan of action. She is further spurring an awakening by generating a series of materials on domestic violence, each geared to a different level of existing awareness. She is also helping the women in the barrio where she works to establish self-analysis groups for the first time.She is also ready to help on an emergency basis. She has established and is servicing a hot line. And she is now establishing emergency care centers for battered women to help these women and their families get through an immediate crisis and also build a new economic and social base.