Dr. Cristina Castro, a professor from the University of Brasilia and founder of Project Gloria, is tackling one of the world’s most prevalent human rights abuses affecting at least one in three women at some point in their lives globally, or over 100,000,000 women in Latin America and the Caribbean: gender-based violence.
In Brazil alone, four girls under 13 are raped every four hours, according to the Brazilian Forum of Public Security’s 2019 study. The research also found that femicides increased by four percent from 2017 to 2018, even as the national homicide rate decreased by nearly 11 percent.
Project Gloria seeks to reverse this trend by using analytics, blockchain technology, and artificial technology to combat gender-based violence. Gloria is a robot avatar that can work both offline and online to not only educate users about violence against women, but also support survivors and identify where violence against women and girls is taking place. Dr. Castro was inspired to create Project Gloria during an overseas trip when she interacted with a robot taking her order at a restaurant. Through this interaction, Dr. Castro recognized how technology could be used as a tool to address gender-based violence and developed Project Gloria with the goal of positively impacting 20 million women and girls in Brazil within the next two years and achieving worldwide use within the next five years.
Dr. Castro credits her participation in the Women Entrepreneurs in the Americas (WEAmericas) International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP) in 2015 as the catalyst for Project Gloria. “WEAmericas taught me that I can change the world,” she said at a recent presentation about her project. The program connected her with a network of other women leaders and tools to tackle what she saw as a significant social problem not only in Brazil, but also around the world, while harnessing new technology and building on the growing availability of internet connectivity.
The State Department launched the WEAmericas initiative at the Summit of the Americas in Cartagena, Colombia, in 2012 to support women’s economic advancement in the Western Hemisphere. That same year, the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs created the WEAmericas IVLP, one of the bureau’s key initiatives supporting women entrepreneurs from all backgrounds in the Western Hemisphere. Since its founding, the program has brought more than 150 women from 25 Latin American and Caribbean countries to the United States to hone their leadership abilities and entrepreneurial skills, build networks, and create strategies for successful enterprises.
The ties WEAmericas alumna have forged with other entrepreneurs in their countries and regional business networks have advanced their own enterprises across the hemisphere. In order to create an enabling environment to allow more women entrepreneurs to succeed, ending gender-based violence is critical. To this day, Dr. Castro continues to collaborate with other WeAmericas alumna to empower others as she seeks to make her vision of a world free of violence against women and girls a reality. As we celebrate 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence, we encourage you to consider actions you can take to keep moving the needle forward on this issue. Empowered women, like Dr. Castro, empower others.
About the Author: Zach Braun, Kyle Fishman, Lauren Molina, and Kerri Sjoblom serve in the Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs and Marta Etienne serves in the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs at the U.S. Department of State.