Casa Matria

Housed in a beautiful, white washed building in the Juanambu neighbourhood of West Cali - is an important site that hosts vital anti VAWG interventions and provides access to fundamental protection services that support the women of the city. 

Casa Matria offers empowerment, connection and onward referral to formal physical, mental and psychosocial health support. They advocate for recourse to public funds and essential social protections such as relocation away from violent spaces, access to statutory legal advice, adult education and opportunities for economic independence. Alongside their frontline service provision, Casa Matria are active agents for political, economic and social change in the city, their work pushes for policy reform that will restore the rights of and protect the experience of a safe life for the most marginalised populations of women in Cali.

Casa Matria’s Yadira Lugo tells me that the number of women they serve annually is in the thousands and that they have a separate residential property in an anonymised location elsewhere in the city so as to shelter women fleeing violent homes and neighbourhoods. She expressed that violence is prevalent here, there is a cycle of scarcity, fear and institutional sexism that disables vulnerable women from finding freedom, breaking that cycle and supporting themselves independently.

It is clear that VAWG is deeply normalised and societally entrenched as acceptable, Casa Matria use all of their power to try and navigate stratified bureaucracy in this context and, as is true worldwide for many foundations designed to empower the disempowered, they have limited resources with which to resist oppressive systems of machismo that slow progress towards a woman’s right to safety. 

The work of Casa Matria confronts the brutality of these ongoing gender based injustices that inevitably disproportionately affect the poorest women in the city - an extraordinary act of resistance I'm grateful to have bore witness to.

Other organisations working to mitigate and protect against the VAWG prevalence in Cali are ‘Fundacion Sí Mujer’ and ‘Asociacion Lila Mujer’ who, for 15 years, have enabled a reclamation of power for women living with HIV.

Abi Nolan, 2023