This kit provides tools to start a conversation about sexual harassment, gender-based discrimination and protocols. It is an object that can help women movements within educational institution to learn how a protocol on sexual violence and harassment in schools and universities can be built and debate what makes a good protocol.
By Daniela Terán and Carolina Sepúlveda. Harvard GSD. Published: Fall 2018
In the last two years, there has been a wave of feminist demonstrations in several countries and contexts. Among these demonstrations are movements that denounce violence and sexual harassment towards women, such as the #MeToo movement in the US and the #NiUnaMenos movement in South America. This wave has not only exposed the ubiquity of gender violence but has acted as a catalyst for more in-depth conversations around the subject. It has allowed questioning the laws and protocols that protect women from sexual violence and harassment while continuing to identify the lack of protection as well.
Last May, a Chilean version of the #MeToo movement awakened in Chile, specifically at the Law School of Universidad de Chile, the main university in the country, after a female law student accused a faculty professor of sexual harassment. The movement quickly spread to other faculties and universities of Santiago and other cities. In just a few days the main universities and more than 27 school faculties were occupied by their young female students under the Toma Feminista (Feminist Occupation) slogan.
The movement started as a reaction to different cases of sexual harassment of faculty professors to their female students that were being hidden by the faculty and the university. The students demanded to review the university’s policy in this kind of situations. Of more than 59 universities that exist in Chile, only 15 had protocols of action around sexual harassment, and the ones that had protocols, were incomplete and didn’t have safe communication channels with the victims. The main point of the movement was to examine the patriarchal system of Chilean education, but also to create awareness of gender inequality in general.
Additionally, more than 15 college buildings were occupied by organized groups of female students for an indeterminate period while their educational institutions were planning how to respond to their requirements. The most symbolic occupancy was the occupation of the main campus of the Catholic University in Santiago, where hundreds of women took over the building for three days. Part of this group was Andrea Cifuentes, College student and feminist activist of the Catholic University who explained that this was a way to make pressure on their demands for a non-sexist education and better gender-based violence protocols. But also it was an opportunity to gather and discuss a common issue in the context of women solidarity and immersive debate about their demands and statements.
During these Toma Feminista that lasted for days or even months in some cases, the students, families and friends organized a series of activities, like open debates, concerts or lectures. Also, there was an organic structure based on solidarity to cook, sleep, cleaning, night shifts to watch the entries from the police or outside invaders, raising funds and the purpose to articulate a body of critical work to set the ground for this specific feminist movement through written “petitions.” The feminist solidarity was not only about the students’ preoccupations or students harassments. But also for gender equality in the society in general, improving the working conditions for the whole female community, including in their petitions the demands of female workers, functionaries, and academics.
With this in mind, we compared the Chilean case, where protocols were built from scratch after a manifestation process, with the United States’ current situation, where federal law mandates educational institutions to comply with standards regarding sexual harassment, sexual violence and gender-based discrimination. This law, Title IX, provides schools a ground-base to develop their own protocols specific to their institutions. However, in both scenarios, sexual violence and sexual harassment have not disappeared. While Title IX serves as a common ground for all educational institutions in the United States, there isn’t a law in Chile and other Latin-American countries that ensure minimum standards of the protocols created by each institution.
In the Chilean Feminist Movement there was a clear pattern of action: first, there was a trigger, an event that mobilized people in protest; then came the occupation of institutions as a form of protest that allowed the women involved to form concrete demands in a safe space for sharing, debating and solidarizing with victims; finally, after a negotiation process, schools and universities adopted some of these demands in their policies and protocols. A process that still has a long way to go. The importance of the protocols is that they work as tools to protect and prevent sexual harassment and gender-based discrimination. But also, they work as a legal structure that protects victims and additionally, provides a model for acceptable behavior to students, faculty and staff of the educational community. To understand the importance of the policies on sexual harassment, we interviewed Luna Follegati, Women & Gender Studies Scholar. As she says: “The challenge is how we complement the protocol with a plan of socialization and awareness in the community.”
For this reason, our project proposal is to design a kit that provides tools to start a conversation about sexual harassment, gender-based discrimination and protocols. This will be an object that can help women movements within educational institutions to learn how a protocol on sexual violence and harassment in schools and universities should be built. Based on Chilean Universities and Harvard’s efforts, successes and obstacles, the kit will propose simple ways to recreate safe spaces of conversation and exchange to get clear petitions that can later become protocols, policies or laws. We envision it as an object that can be used by communities that have not even started a conversation around this subject, but also be useful to contexts like Harvard, where there are clear laws and policies but still need a more accessible, interactive and compelling way to talk about these issues. Finally, we hope to establish a virtual solidarity space that gives access to strategies and tools and allows sharing between different contexts.
The Build Your Protocol Kit is made up of three parts: The first, Warm Up, is meant to be an introduction to the key concepts around sexual harassment and sexual assault, it also provides the user with a short compilation of the critical research performed for the building of the Kit; the second, Play, is meant to be an ice-breaker and conversation-started for the community involved, this part is made of a short game of myth and truth and some warm-up questions around the subject; finally, the Action section provides samples of protocols and worksheets that guide the user in the protocol building. The idea behind the Kit is not only to educate a community on the subject but also to provide tools that will allow policy building to be an easy and straightforward matter. We envision the Kit to be the first part of a long-term process, as policy building needs to be followed by negotiation and approval and then followed by process of teaching and promoting the new protocol.
The Build Your Protocol Kit is based on research done on the subject of sexual harassment and sexual violence in educational institutions. The Kit compiles information gathered from different universities and institutions’ resources for students, faculty and staff available on their official web pages. Additionally, we interviewed experts on the matter and people that have been involved and working on developing protocols for sexual harassment and sexual violence in schools and universities. The interviews are provided as an annex to this essay and also as part of the Kit.
To conclude, tools can facilitate how spaces of solidarity are built. Spaces of solidarity can make the conversation around complex matters easier. We hope that our Kit is a tool and a mean to achieve this goal. As we believe this matter is stronger when people and communities unite and support future vindications, we have created a website that will act as a resource platform and as a worldwide community building space.
INTERVIEW WITH LUNA FOLLEGATIWOMEN & GENDER STUDIES SCHOLAR: SEXUAL HARASSMENT POLICIES: A PENDING DEBT*
*Luna Follegati, Phd © in Philosophy with mencion on Moral Philosophy and Politics. Master in Political Comunication and History Bachelor of the University of Chile. Professor of biopolitics, government, contemporary political thinking and politics theory in University of Santiago and University of Chile.
Carolina Sepúlveda: What are the key elements of an effective sexual harassment and gender protocol?Luna Follegati: A good protocol must have a clear and specific definition of what is consent and sexual harassment. Those are the key terms. Otherwise, complex problems and revictimization arise when situations of sexual harassment aren’t recognized as such. The protocol is a normative, abstract document, unfriendly, though for the administration. The challenge is how we complement the protocol with a plan of socialization and awareness in the community. That everybody knows what qualifies as sexual harassment, which is the measures that can be taken, etc. In other words, how the protocol becomes public knowledge. That is what has failed and what remains to be done.
CS: What can the women’s movement in Latin-America learn from the experience of USA universities and the creation of their own protocols?LF: In the USA the protocols arise from public institutions. In Chile and other countries of the region, they emerge from the initiative and pressure of the students. None of the women’s rights have been conquered in a gratuitous way. It has been through protests.For Chile, it is crucial to take as referent the case of USA, like Berkeley University, and how they have created and changed the offices, the language, the documentation. We must learn of what they have done, like the creation of a protocol, tri-stage boards, discussions for common ground. But also, the particular context of the own university must be taken into account to create a protocol that fits the administrative organization.
CS: But in the US there are also many students unsatisfied with their protocols.LF: It is not enough to have a protocol to achieve an effective transformation, not even in the US. It can’t be just a change in the norms. It must include campaigns, videos, forums, seminars. It is essential to have spaces of community reflection, that includes all the university components. The students, but also the authorities, faculty and staff. If there is not a reflection of the whole community, it is difficult to achieve a concrete change.
CS: How can women student movements get support from their educational institutions to change the culture and the policy over sexual and gender violence? LF: One possibility is that other bodies of the university get involved. For example, the female faculty. The higher you scale in the academic hierarchy, the cases of harassment and machismo increase and also involve issues of power and invisibility. The female academics face two options: to cover what is happening in the institution or to expose what is happening and by doing so, your position as academic is in danger. If we, as academics, can’t address this situation, it is very difficult to achieve structural changes.
WHY WE LED THE FIRST FEMINIST OCCUPATION OF CATHOLIC UNIVERSITY?
By Andrea Cifuentes, college student and feminist activist of Pontificia Universidad Católica, Chile.
The movement against sexual violence in the Catholic University of Chile (UC) dates back to two years ago. Then, the denunciations of harassment in the Humanities Faculty were published in a Facebook page called “UC Confessions,” where students sent their anonymous stories. Students began to share their anonymous confessions on this page because there was no other way to channel these complaints at the University.
As a response in 2016, the University created a Commission composed of faculty members. This was the University’s first protocol on sexual violence.
The Commission is a bureaucratic, quite secretive space, with little connection to students. That same year was created a student’s association called Secretary of Gender and Sexualities UC, where I participate. It was an important organization to begin talking about sexual and gender violence in the University. In 2017 we received around 30 denunciations. In March of 2018, we already had received 37 denunciations and that was alarming. We felt that we needed to mobilize students to make this subject a priority for the university.
I remember a dreadful week this year, just before everything exploded. There were 5 femicides in just one week. The infamous trial of “La Manada” just had happened in Spain and in Chile, another Manada -5 soccer fans- raped a woman outside a stadium in Santiago. All the horror was condensed in one week and I think that was an important trigger that fueled the will to mobilize.
Then, we noticed that the girls from the Austral University (Valdivia, Chile) already had taken over their university and that feminist students occupied other schools, organized in assemblies with only female members. There was a critical organ for all this movement that was the movement called the COFEU: The Feminist University Coordinator. The COFEU was behind all the feminist mobilizations of the universities at a national level. Thanks to the COFEU we quickly discovered what was happening in all the other colleges. That week the COFEU called to join a women’s march, and support the two days of strike. To vote on this march and the strike, we planned three women assemblies the same day and time in the most politically active faculties of our university: the faculties of Humanities, Social Sciences and Arts. That created a domino effect on the other careers to create their own assemblies.
That was the march of the topples masked girls in May - a massive and iconic march. I have never seen so many people marching at my university. It was a historic moment. That march also probed us to understand the capacity of our organization and our ability to mobilize others.
We started creating work commissions inside the assembly. One worked on a petitionary to improve the University’s protocol and prevention policy on gender violence and a non-sexist education. Another interesting commission was the Funa or Security Commission, where victims of violence could seek help and the commission would talk to the victimizer and ask him not to go to the spaces of feminist construction.
We went to deliver our petitionary to the University Rector, but he didn’t receive us. We began talking about occupying the Central Campus, not to negotiate, but to create an important symbolic effect. The Catholic University is one of the most important universities in the country but also a very conservative institution that hadn’t been taken by students since the reform movement of 1967. It was a quick decision. We voted in a general assembly on Thursday and we occupied the Central University the next morning. To organize the occupation and avoid surveillance, we spent the night on a nearby university that was already occupied. The Law Faculty of the University of Chile was very close to the campus of the Catholic University. We didn’t know anything about the logistics of taking a university. The girls of this other university helped us to make a plan. We needed at least 150 participants to make it work. We made a collective and sent some compañeras to buy chains and padlocks that same night. And cited everybody at 5 am the next day at the Law Faculty, which was ten blocks away from our Central Campus. We knew that at 7 am the university would open with only five guards and two entrances. We divided ourselves into groups, and we explained to them where to go; we told them what classrooms they would take chairs and tables from and what spaces they had to close off with barricades made of the same chairs and tables. We began walking in groups of five to the university to avoid attention. Every group had a position to wait in, on different corners surrounding the university. We had timed semaphore lights to shine the moment we had to run, cross the street and take charge of the university.
I was part of the advanced group, the only one with our faces uncovered. We had the difficult task of asking the guards to leave peacefully. If they said no, we couldn’t occupy the university because with them inside, it wouldn’t have been an occupation; it would have been a kidnapping. We didn’t want to take them out by force, either. We depended on their goodwill. I talked to the guards: “Good morning. Stay calm. I know this seems scary. We are taking hold of the university, and we kindly ask you to leave”. There were already masked people running inside the university, so it was a scary situation for them. But luckily, they reacted nicely. They said they would take their things and leave. I waited for them to go. Meanwhile, all the teams were barricading the entrances of the campus with chairs and blocking. In 20 minutes, we had taken hold of the university. We couldn’t believe it. We embraced in the yard, almost crying.
We thought that the university authorities would have partnered with the police to remove us in a few hours, but the occupation lasted from Friday to Monday, with long and extenuating negotiations with the Rector and within our own assembly. We didn’t have clothes or backpacks or anything to stay there for whole days. But the occupation made national news, and in less than an hour, dozens of people from outside the university came to give us food and toiletries. We organized commissions for cleaning, meals and security to avoid being removed by force.
We negotiated a five-point petitionary, including the use of social names for transgender students; that nobody inside the occupation would be prosecuted; to include the concept of “gender violence” in the University protocol; to compensate a staff worker who had been fired because she demanded an important faculty member of domestic violence; and to stop the racism and abuse of power to subcontracted Haitian workers that hadn’t been payed.
We achieved some victories. One that was more ideological than actionable was the concept of “gender violence” being included in the University Protocol. Before the occupation, it was a neutral “sexual violence protocol” that didn’t acknowledge the patriarchal matrix that favors that some persons are more vulnerable to becoming victims of violence. This was a political ideological gain we achieved with the occupation.
Even though we made significant advancements, we still have a lot to keep working for. We have said that the protocol is a tool, a response to sexual violence when it has already happened. But that is not enough. To eradicate the sexual and gender violence from the universities we need a non-sexist education. That was the consign of the movement during 2018: to reformulate education in terms of gender, democracy and feminism in a transversal way.
To this day we are working to change the logic of prevention at the university. The university’s main prevention policy is self-care: don’t go out at night, do not expose yourself, don’t get drunk. Instead of victim-blaming, what we want to do is change the perspective of that policy to a responsible community, one that is committed to eradicating gender violence from its spaces and to reeducating victimizers.
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Carolina SepulvedaCarolina holds a B. Arch from Universidad Catolica de Chile, and is currently pursuing a Master in Design Studies (2020) at Harvard University, with a concentration in Art, Design and the Public Domain. Her work is in the interception of art, architecture and design, with a focus on contemporary issues like politics, gender, media and social justice. Recently worked at Housing, What’s Next? (Washington D.C., 2018), the Inter-American Development Bank as coordinator, and the Chile Biennial of Architecture and Urbanism as assistant curator (Valparaíso, 2017). Other previously exhibition experience was "The Space between Things" of Chilean architects Emilio Marin and Juan Carlos López Architecture Office at LIGA DF (Mexico City, 2014). She had participated in book projects, fanzines, and two years ago founded La MAGAzine (http://www.la-maga.com/), an online interdisciplinary feminist magazine. Carolina hails from Santiago, Chile.
Daniela TeranDaniela holds a B. Arch from Universidad San Francisco de Quito (Ecuador) and is currently pursuing a Master in Design Engineering at Harvard University. Daniela's interest in using design for social innovation projects started as a student of architectural design, and grew in scope with professional practice at -dxp- Experimental Design, a studio she co-founded in Ecuador. The studio offers design consulting, creates new products and furniture as produced in their workshop, and works on architecture and construction projects. A specialized branch, dxp-org, focuses on social innovation projects and works one-on-one with communities and stakeholders. She believes in the potential that lies within communities and people to improve their lives and their environment and wants her professional practice to be a tool in that process.