For seventy years, the Women’s Club of Costa Rica has built a reputation for its generosity. Their early donations included earthquake disaster relief funds, equipment for Hospital de Niños, and for the Hospital San Juan de Dios, equipment to completely outfit an Intensive Care Unit and the purchase of a mammogram machine—the first in the country. In 1977, the organization also started the existing scholarship program. These are just a few examples of their contributions.
For its 60th anniversary in 2000, the Women’s Club wanted to give something special to the women of Costa Rica. After all, it had been a successful year of fundraising, according to Phylliss Crist, who was the chairperson of WCCR’s social service committee.
Dorothy Boone, WCCR’s president in 2000, asked Crist to appoint a subcommittee to study what area of service in Costa Rica would be appropriate as a recipient of the award in celebration of the Club’s anniversary.
For over a year, the sub-committee searched for a special gift. Its members met with counselors, psychiatrists, psychologists, and government and religious organizations to find an appropriate recipient for the award. After looking at numerous possibilities, including a women’s shelter, they chose domestic violence as the theme for their donation.
“We chose that [domestic violence] because that was a very, very, important topic in the news at the time,” said Dr. Margaret Dickeman Datz, a member of the social service committee. “Costa Ricans, in general, were paying a lot of attention to it.”
In the late 1990s, domestic violence awareness in Costa Rica was increasing. Every November 25th men, women, and children peacefully demonstrated on the streets of San José calling for an end to domestic violence, The Tico Times reported.
“Violence against women is a citizen’s security problem,” affirmed Mayrene Sánchez, coordinator at El Instituto Nacional de las Mujeres (INAMU), a governmental organization. “The first national plan against domestic violence was created in 1996,” added Sánchez in the telephone interview. INAMU has strived for twelve years to end domestic violence.
WCCR contacted INAMU. The organization introduced WCCR members to Fresia Camacho, producer at Voces Nuestras, a communication company that focuses on political and educational topics. At the time, Voces Nuestras needed sponsors for a radio novella that would create awareness of domestic violence, said Camacho.
The committee was excited about having found this organization; it would be the first time the Club sponsored an intangible project. Usually, its funds went for equipment, supplies or scholarships. The proposed gift was to Voces Nuestras for “La Otra Cara del Amor” (The Other Side of Love), a 25-chapter radio novela about domestic violence. Though many members understood the seriousness of the issues, it was also the first time the Women’s Club had made a donation that was seen by some members as if the Club were meddling in Costa Ricans’ personal affairs. The proposed project nearly caused a divide in the Club, according to The Tico Times.
On June 13, 2000, WCCR members voted, and the radio novella project, “La Otra Cara del Amor,” won by a slim margin.
But the success was big.
Radio novela producer Fresia Camacho said she was excited to know that WCCR, the second largest donor, not only presented Voces Nuestras a $15,000 donation for the production of the radio novella, but also stood by their side during the production. “For us, it was very significant, and possibly we wouldn’t have been able to accomplish all that we did without your support,” said Camacho who thanked WCCR “for being willing to run risks along with us.”
The radio novella has been aired in over 20 countries during ten years. Every time it was aired in Costa Rica, a hot line number was given after each broadcast for people to report domestic violence. The hotline center informed Fresia Camacho that after each airing the number of callers reporting domestic violence increased substantially.
In 2002, “La Otra Cara del Amor” won the Columbine award at the Festival Moondance for the best radio novella produced by a woman.
- Disclosure: Margarita Persico, the writer, has been a member of WCCR since 2009. She is a Journalist who relocated from Boston after receiving a master’s degree in liberal arts in 2009 from Harvard University. She can be found at http://www.margaritapersico.com/
- This article was published first at El Residente magazine, the in-house publication of Association of Residents of Costa Rica (ARCR), which reaches members in 14 countries.