In Peru, gender-based violence has risen at an exponential rate due to COVID-19. According to RPP Noticias, a total of 67,712 Gender-Based Violence cases were reported to 'Line 100' of the Ministry of Women and Vulnerable Populations during the 107 days of the general quarantine.To prevent and respond to the spike in gender-based violence cases, various UN agencies are expanding their collaboration with local governments and private sector companies, and UN Volunteers, such as Melissa Patiño, are at the heart of this intervention.
"Even before the pandemic, violence against women was one of the most widespread violations of human rights. Since lockdown restrictions, domestic violence has multiplied, spreading across the world in a shadow pandemic, " said Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, Executive Director of UN Women, in a press release. "This is a critical time for action, from prioritizing essential services like shelter and support for women survivors, to providing the economic support and stimulus packages needed for broader recovery."
The UN Development Programme (UNDP) in Peru – in collaboration with the Ministry of Women and Vulnerable Populations – has designed the No Estas Sola (You Are Not Alone) initiative, a multidimensional and multi-actor intervention that seeks to accelerate the prevention of and early intervention in gender-based violence cases during COVID-19 quarantine.
"The heart of the intervention includes awareness-raising and strengthening work on gender equality," says Melissa Patiño, a UN Volunteer assigned to Justa, "and the prevention of gender-based violence with police, waste collectors, supermarket staff and women's community networks."
No Estas Sola has built a communication platform through supermarkets and pharmacies – such as CENCOSUD, Supermercados Peruanos (Peruvian Supermarkets), Tottus and Farmacias Peruanas (Peruvian Pharmacies) and the local governments of the Municipalities of Lima, San Juan de Miraflores and Villa El Salvador – to prevent gender-based violence, provide women at-risk with the information they need, and remind victims that they are not alone.
Messages in food baskets delivered by local government, audio spots broadcasted on waste collection, safe spaces in supermarkets, pharmacies and women community networks are some of the many ways No Estas Sola has been serving the community of Lima, Peru.
Another strategy No Estas Sola has been implementing is a mobilization campaign called Mascarilla Violeta (Purple Mask). Mascarilla Violeta aims to make people aware of the predominant issue affecting societies around the world: gender-based violence during the pandemic.
"Nowadays, masks are already part of our daily routine and an essential clothing for our protection," says Melissa as she explains the symbolism behind the purple masks. "Through the use of the violet mask we tell the survivors of violence that they are not alone, and we make it visible that the struggle has not stopped."
Prior to the pandemic, UNDP launched seven pilot projects worldwide that focused on the prevention of gender-based violence. One of these pilot projects is Justa Project, a multisectoral prevention model of gender-based violence in the district of Villa El Salvador, but to expand the scope of their reach and their efforts amid COVID-19, No Estas Sola was created.
"Justa Project and No Estas Sola are two different initiatives coordinated by UNDP, but they share the heart [the mission and focus]," adds Melissa, who provides technical and project management support for both initiatives.
Before becoming a UN Volunteer, Melissa worked at the Peruvian Ministry of Education, the Municipality of Miraflores and at the Peruvian Ministry of Culture. In these spaces, not only did she acquire knowledge about the importance of building public policies that put people’s different needs at the centre, but she took a keen interest in issues related to gender-based violence.
"These were topics that moved me a lot, topics that I wanted to work with," says the national UN Volunteer, who has been involved in community services and projects of culture, development and democratization since an early age.
Melissa’s passion to serve can be traced to the teaching of key women in her life: her grandmother, her mother and her aunts. Women who dedicated their lives to construct, uplift and serve their neighborhoods.
"My grandmother was a woman who was always strongly involved in the community," explains Melissa. "Wwhat little she had, she shared with others. My family grew up in a district in Lima that was, let's say, built from scratch, and community work was very important to maintain and provide the most basic services."
For Melissa, becoming a UN Volunteer was fate. She feels she is where she is supposed to be and that is why every day she gives 100 per cent to contribute to a more egalitarian society that ends violence against women and girls.
"Everything was leading up to this moment," says Melissa. "Volunteering was always a space where I could see myself. It is in my DNA."
 RPP Noticias, also known as Radio Programas del Peru, is a broadcasting company in Peru.
This article was prepared with the kind support of Online Volunteer Nichool Castro.