Calderón center inaugurates program to help victims of gender violence
By Alejandra M. Jover Tovar
Special to The Star
Former Gov. Sila M. Calderón, who chairs the board of directors of the Center for Puerto Rico Sila M. Calderón, announced the inauguration of the Center for Transformation and Assistance for Survivors of Gender Violence (Ce-Transforma).
The new center -- which has been operating since last summer but was just announced yesterday -- has already provided clinical services, legal representation and defense, support, financial education, and business training to more than a hundred people so that victims can break and overcome the cycle of gender violence.
The financial side is vital in the power dynamics that occur in cycles of gender-based violence. Suppose one party is subordinated to the other financially. In that case, it is challenging to break the violence pattern and get help, as the lack of resources can lead one party to be partially or totally dependent on the other.
“One of the examples we have is that of a woman who one day was going to separate, and her husband said, ‘This house is mine, go away,’ kicking her out of the home with her two daughters. That in itself is more than economic violence. Even so, that woman had nothing and had to leave with her two daughters to her mother’s house,” the former governor said.
“Now, after our help and the courses, she has a house, a flourishing business, and is independent,” Calderón added.
Part of Ce-Transforma’s work provides entrepreneurship courses and direct job creation to survivors so that they can free themselves economically.
“There are 20 courses at the cost of $5 each because I firmly believe that what has a cost is given a value,” the former governor said. “We train them to be independent and care for their family.”
Surrounded by representatives of government and private organizations that have supported the initiative, Calderón said “gender violence hurts our sensitivity and is a terrible reality that affects thousands of women in Puerto Rico.”
“It is estimated that the annual cost of gender violence is about $2 billion, or the equivalent of two percent of our gross domestic product, and I did not invent that figure, it was offered by economist Martha Quiñones, a professor at the University of Puerto Rico,” she said.
“We saw how two women were murdered after judges told them it was too late to present their case. … That can’t happen again,” Calderón insisted.
Another part of Ce-Transforma’s work is to provide support to victims to help them submit their cases in court. In addition, the Center has eight closed spaces for attending to victims and their families, and the second floor is expected to be remodeled soon, provided the necessary funds are available.
“We have been paying for two plots of land with the Land Authority for a long time. … I would like them to give them to us so we can continue with this work,” the former governor said. “We are doing a public service with less bureaucracy, with more efficiency.”
Center for Puerto Rico Sila M. Calderón President Luis Gautier Lloveras noted that the institution has been providing business training services to reduce poverty and inequity for a decade.
“As we listened to the stories of our participants, we realized that gender-based violence is a common experience and an obstacle to completing entrepreneurial preparation,” he said. “From there, we decided to create a project focused on gender-based violence and the economic empowerment of victims.”
Ce-Transforma’s general coordinator, Erica Piñero Sierra, said “we help victims overcome the aftermath of gender violence in all its manifestations; the goal is for them to be able to break abusive relationships, manage the emotional and physical effects of violence and take control of their lives.”
According to the U.S. National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, more than 94% of survivors have experienced economic abuse by being prevented from working or having all of their money under an ex-spouse or ex-partner’s control.
“Through financial education and business training, we created a plan with survivors that includes self-employment as an alternative to achieve autonomy and break the cycle of abuse,” Piñero Sierra said.
Since last year, the center has served 181 people, 92% of whom are women. They have also offered educational workshops to more than a hundred people.
For more information, regardless of gender or economic status, those interested can call 787-296-8622 or visit www.ce-transforma.org.