By Hassel Fallas, Project Coordinator at ILDA
In Central America, where detailed official information on violence and discrimination against LGBTIQ+ individuals is scarce, the Latin American Initiative for Open Data (ILDA) initiated an impactful project at the end of 2022. Titled ‘Making Visible the Violence towards LGBTIQ+ Populations in Central America through Open Data,’ this project, funded by the Inter-American Foundation, aims to gather comprehensive standardized information about violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. Its objective is to fill a crucial gap in understanding and knowledge about these issues within the region.
The project’s goal goes beyond mere data collection; it also seeks to influence the development and modification of relevant public policies and, at the same time, empower a group of prominent Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) in Central America. This process is oriented towards strengthening their skills in data collection and analysis, which are fundamental for an effective defense and communication of the rights of the LGBTIQ+ community in the region.
The participating CSOs have a recognized track record in human rights defense. They include ASPIDH Arcoíris Trans and AMATE in El Salvador, Somos CDC in Honduras, IRCA CASABIERTA in Costa Rica, and the LAMBDA Association in Guatemala.
The benefits achieved so far by the five organizations are reflected in the experiences shared by their members. Mónica Hernández, executive director of the Aspidh Arcoíris Trans Association in El Salvador, highlights how the project has opened new perspectives to work regionally with open data in favor of LGBTIQ+ human rights, particularly for trans women.
Similarly, Estuardo Moscoso, project coordinator at Lambda Guatemala, emphasizes that thanks to this initiative, the trust that other CSOs – both local and foreign – have in the leadership of his Association to share their data and demonstrate, under a common front, human rights violations has been strengthened. “It’s a great achievement to be local and international references for our data management and analysis,” adds Moscoso.
Gonzalo Montano, Secretary of Training at AMATE in El Salvador, highlights as a positive outcome of the project the development and strengthening of their research area. This progress is significant, as it shows how inter-organizational collaboration has enriched not only collective capabilities but also the individual capacities of each entity. “Research is crucial in our fight for LGBTIQ+ rights, and this program has been a catalyst for delving deeper into this field,” Montano states.
This reality is reflected and amplified in the experience of Rosalía Carballo, a researcher at IRCA CASABIERTA in Costa Rica. Like Montano, Carballo underscores the value of research in the context of this project. “We have experienced a similar transformation. The project has provided us with essential tools to strengthen our research, a vital area to understand and address the complexities of discrimination and violence against the LGBTIQ+ community in Costa Rica, a country lacking in this type of data,” she explains.
Capacity Development and Training
Since its launch in September 2022, the project has achieved significant milestones, including the formation of a cohesive interdisciplinary work team, consisting of general and local coordinators, as well as committed researchers in each participating organization. These steps are enabling the team to comprehensively address the issue of violence towards the LGBTQ population in Central America.
Another significant achievement in this first year of work has been the training provided to over 80 individuals from the participating organizations and their allies. These sessions focused on the management of open data, data management and analysis, and digital security, and were facilitated by Datasketch and SocialTIC, technical partners of the project.
“The training in data management and analysis they gave us is proving valuable for examining how we can extract data from Word documents and begin to organize our databases in spreadsheets. We believe this can help us more effectively highlight the issue of violence against trans women in El Salvador,” emphasizes Mónica Hernández.
Solid knowledge transfer is a cross-cutting axis of this project. Its purpose is to leave installed capacity in the participating organizations to allow them to continue collecting, analyzing, and influencing with data even after the conclusion of this initiative.
Methodology and Data Standard
Furthermore, the technical component of this project focuses on an advanced methodology for data collection and standardization, specifically designed to meet the needs of the five Civil Society Organizations involved. The goal is to ensure uniformity and high quality in the collected data, through a co-creation approach.
Within this initiative, we define a “data standard” as a set of clear and precise rules for organizing and exchanging data. These standards are essential for facilitating understanding, use, analysis, and sharing of data among different systems, organizations, and people.
Developing this methodology required a detailed analysis of key concepts related to violence and discrimination against the LGBTIQ+ community. Preliminary studies were also conducted on the availability of data and sources at the national level. This has allowed for the development of an initial proposal of statistical variables that can be efficiently collected by each participating CSO.
This process demanded extensive dialogue, active listening, and negotiation among organizations with different objectives, but united by a common mission: to improve and protect the living conditions of the LGBTIQ+ community they represent.
“It is extremely valuable to recognize our consensus on using standardized data to effectively influence the reduction of violence against LGBTIQ+ people at the regional level. This data-based approach not only provides a deeper understanding of the problem but also allows us to develop more precise and effective strategies to address this issue on a large scale,” states Diego Lima, local researcher in charge of the project at Lambda Association Guatemala.
David Valle, local researcher in charge of the project at Somos CDC in Honduras, reinforces the importance of this joint effort: “It is very important to highlight how we have joined forces from the four countries to improve communication and data-based advocacy to amplify the fight for the human rights of LGBTIQ+ people.”
External validation and improvements
A key aspect in creating the standard for data collection on violence against the LGBTIQ+ community in Costa Rica, El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala has been external validation. The project team submitted the first draft of the instrument to a session/workshop with four leading external regional organizations, not participating in the project.
External validation allowed for the identification of improvement areas that might have gone unnoticed during the co-creation process. The recommendations range from clarifying definitions of sexual orientations, identities, and types of violence, to implementing mechanisms for protecting sensitive data. These suggestions are currently being analyzed by the project’s executive team and researchers to determine their effective integration into the instrument.
At ILDA, it was decided to reveal the methodology used and how consensuses have been worked with participating organizations as a form of transparency that contributes to confidence in the validity of the standard. Additionally, this standard is intended to serve as a guide for other organizations in different countries with similar conditions.
The project is at an intermediate phase. Once the standard is consolidated and country-level data collection begins, the focus will shift to generating data analysis, communication, and advocacy strategies. The main objective is to make visible the violence towards the LGBTIQ+ population in Central America, thus promoting the discussion of effective public policies that foster a more just and inclusive future in the region.
To read more about the project, visit: https://ilda-datos-lgbtiq.netlify.app/