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PAHO Calls for End to Violence against Women

International Music Star Jerry Rivera Honored as PAHO Champion of Health


PAHO Assistant Director Carissa Etienne presents the "Champion of Health" award to Jerry Rivera.

Washington, D.C., November 21, 2006 (PAHO)—Singer Jerry Rivera today joined forces with the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) to launch a new public service campaign to raise awareness of violence against women and of the need to end the widespread problem in the Americas and around the world.

“Today, another women dies, today another woman cries, today another woman’s life is jeopardized by domestic violence,” said PAHO Assistant Director Carissa Etienne before naming Rivera a PAHO Champion of Health during an observance of the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women.

“Today we must stand together because our own sisters are in danger and have been in danger too long. Domestic violence affects a woman at the core of her human dignity, which is so essential to who we are and who we can become,” said Etienne.

PAHO named Rivera a Champion of Health for his efforts to end domestic violence through his music and messages. Rivera, with his sister Saned, composed and recorded the song “Rivers of Pain,” which depicts a woman’s escape from domestic violence.

In a new PAHO public service announcement, Rivera tells Spanish-speaking audiences that violence against women “is a punishment to all of us” and appeals to viewers to “put an end to this injustice.”

Approximately one in three women in Latin America and the Caribbean has been a victim of sexual, physical, or psychological violence at the hands of domestic partners, according to survey data collected by PAHO. Studies show that in Bolivia, for example, 53 percent of women say they have experienced physical violence, and 12 percent have been victims of sexual violence. Other countries report similar figures:

  • Peru (2004): 42 percent physical violence, 10 percent sexual violence
  • Colombia (2005): 39 percent physical violence, 12 percent sexual violence
  • Ecuador (2004) : 31 percent physical violence, 12 percent sexual violence
  • Haiti (2000) : 29 percent physical violence, 17 percent sexual violence

Dr. Alberto Concha-Eastman, PAHO regional advisor for violence prevention, described violence against women as a violation of human rights and “a nightmare that compromises development.” He said the problem not only exacts an enormous public health toll but also impedes social and economic development by preventing victims from contributing fully to their communities and societies. “The physical, mental, and social consequences of this problem are enormous,” he said.

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Etienne agreed: “We cannot achieve the Millennium Development Goals that we talk so much about if women are not allowed the opportunity to grow into what they might become.”

Concha-Eastman noted that there are laudable efforts to stem domestic violence in the region, but he noted that “the burden of domestic violence on public health systems in the PAHO region is not yet matched by the response to the problem.” He urged that legal codes be updated to apply human rights principles to the issue of domestic violence.

María Mercedes Juárez, head of PAHO’s Gender and Health Unit, said the roots of the problem lie in gender inequalities and resulting differences in men’s and women’s access to resources and power. She said changes in attitudes and empowerment of women are key to ending the problem.

“The third Millennium Development Goal—achieving equality between men and women—is crucial to all the other goals,” said Juárez. “Only with gender equality can a woman be in a position to choose whether to have sex, be free to use protection, be free to protect her own health, and be free to direct her own life.”

Claudia Campos, of Entre Amigas (“Between Girlfriends”), said, “Thank you to Jerry and other men who join us to say that it is possible to have relations of equality, mutual respect, and love.” Entre Amigas is a program of the Clínica del Pueblo, in Washington, D.C., devoted to helping Hispanic women caught up in domestic violence.

Artina Todd-Norris, a former victim of domestic abuse who escaped her abuser by jumping from a second-floor loft, is now president and founder of We Inspire, an organization that provides education on violence against women. She called on others to “recognize the signs of domestic violence and get involved; give voice to victims of domestic violence.”

Christine Olsuin, of Herndon, Virginia, described her own plight as a “homemaker who became the home breaker.” “We women are caretakers,” said Olsuin. “We want to keep our families together and take care of everyone—our children, our husbands. But we forget to take care of ourselves. I had to break the cycle. I finally realized it was not my fault, that I was dealing with an adult who had the temper tantrums of a 2-year-old. I could no longer be the calm mommy because I was not calm inside.”

Pedro Biaggi, host and disc jockey of Radio El Zol, in Washington, D.C., said his mother, now deceased, had been a victim of domestic violence. Biaggi is urging the creation of the first shelter for battered Hispanic women in the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area.

Past leaders and celebrities honored as PAHO Champions of Health include Heather Mills-McCartney, TV celebrity Mario Kreutzberger (“Don Francisco”), singer John Secada, and Brazilian soccer player Ronaldo de Assis Moreira (“Ronaldinho”).

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The Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) was established in 1902 and is the world’s oldest international public health organization. It serves as the regional office of the World Health Organization and works with all the countries of the Americas to improve the health and quality of life of their peoples.

For more information contact , Pan American Health Organization, Media, tel. 202-974-3036. For interviews with Jerry Rivera please contact , mobile 305 528 6655.