On November 25, 2015—the United Nations’ International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women—2015 ABOG Fellow Suzanne Lacy and a team of artist and activist collaborators presented De tu Puño y Letra (By Your Own Hand) in Quito, Ecuador. Featuring hundreds of men taking a public stand about violence against women, the performance was staged within the ring at Plaza Belmonte, the only currently in-use bullfighting venue in the city.
To prepare for the performance, the male participants took part in workshops and “adopted” a letter from an unknown woman sharing a testimonial of family violence, generated through Cartas de Mujeres (Letters from Women). Initiated in 2012, Cartas de Mujeres was a highly successful consciousness-raising campaign that invited women and men of all ages to submit their testimonies about violence, supported by the Municipality of the Metropolitan District of Quito, the German Development Cooperation (GIZ) and UN Women. In Ecuador alone, 10,000 letters were written by women throughout the country.
Building on these letters and collaborative workshops, the male participants worked with local artists and activists to co-create the culminating participatory performance that included music, readings, personal testimonials, and choreography. A remarkable cross section of people—including artists and activists from Ecuador, Mexico and the United States, as well as hundreds of non-professionals—and organizations were represented in the production.
Timm Kroeger, an advisor in the Violence Against Women Prevention in Latin America initiative of the German Development Corporation, worked closely with the male participants leading up to the performance. Learn more in the interview below.
Joelle Te Paske (ABOG): How did you become involved with De tu Puño y Letra?
Timm Kroeger: I first got involved when Suzanne and the representative of Fundación Museos de la Ciudad had a meeting in order to get to know more about the work we do in Ecuador and other countries related to violence against women prevention.
I became part of the creative team, where I was able to contribute with ideas and general input during the process of preparing for the performance itself.
I was also in charge of training male trainers (32 directly trained leaders) in order to sensitize large groups of men, not only for them to take part in De tu Puño y Letra as performers, but also to become involved in violence against women prevention in general. More than 1,100 men were part of the small workshops and speeches, and we continue to carry on the process with some of the leaders I trained.
Right before the performance I was in charge of completing exercises with the performers and participants in order to get them even more emotionally involved with the topic, and in the right mood for their act.
ABOG: What made you want to participate?
TK: I’m very interested in the arts and think it is a great idea to combine art with social topics to promote change on a major scale. So I was in on it from the moment I heard of the idea. I also liked the idea of involving men in violence against women prevention, a topic that is of great interest to me, both personally and professionally.
ABOG: What was most beautiful to you about it?
TK: There were a lot of positive aspects—the possibility to get creative and be able to propose ideas as part of an interesting team, the change the workshops generated for the men involved and that they continue promoting another kind of manhood, the discussions created around the performance—both the small and big changes.
ABOG: What was the hardest part of participating in this project?
TK: Regrettably I didn’t have the time to do all the things I would have liked to do in the context of the project. I would have liked to do more workshops and speeches in order to get men and also women involved. But I think the male leaders did a great job socializing their learning experience. Also I think it would’ve been nice to do more work with the media in order to get more coverage, but this was out of my reach.
ABOG: If you had to pick one moment that was most meaningful to you, which would you choose?
TK: Of course the performance itself, but also the feedback from the men who were participating—to see the changes we initiated with the whole process was very gratifying.
Timm Kroeger is an advisor in the regional program of Violence Against Women (VaW) Prevention in Latin America (ComVoMujer), an initiative of the German Development Corporation. He works with private enterprises, public entities, as well as social organizations in order to eliminate violence against women and gender discrimination. His work includes creative conceptualizing; development of innovative tools such as videos, smartphone apps, and online learning modules; giving motivational speeches and trainings for men and women of all ages, and generating awareness and action.
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