CommsLabs Colombia: Defending Human Rights Through Media and Technology

In July 2014 Astraea launched the first-ever Media, Communications and Technology Lab (Comms- Labs) in Bogotá, Colombia, as part of the LGBT Global Development Partnership with USAID. Gathering together more than 35 activists from Latin America with 12 technologists and communications practitioners from around the world, the group worked together to create new media strategies and digital advocacy tools specifically designed to meet the needs of LGBT human rights defenders.

At the CommsLabs in Colombia, Astraea grantee Red Lésbica CATTRACHAS, a collective whose main objective is to advance and protect the human rights of LGBT people in Honduras, presented their Observatorio tool. The Observatorio is a database that CATTRACHAS has used since 2008 to monitor and identify trends in human rights violations and violence against LGBT people; it works by grabbing tagged words (murder, gay, homicide, lesbian) from online newspapers and media outlets.

CATTRACHAS then follows up, opens a case and provides support with reporting and services for the survivors. Astraea grantee partners Colombia Diversa, Caribe Afirmativo and Santamaría Fundación were also present at the CommsLabs. These organizations have been collaborating with CATTRACHAS since 2011, using the Observatorio to track human rights violations in Colombia. Together they’ve built a robust system that allows them to monitor violence and hate crimes against the LGBT community. Other organizations, such as No Tengo Miedo, a Peru-based grantee partner, and Mujer y Mujer, an Ecuador-based grantee partner, learned about the Observatorio and its regional impact for the first time at CommsLabs, and have made plans to implement it in their countries. As a direct result of the CommsLabs, CATTRACHAS strengthened the Observatorio with support from one of the trainers, and was able to make it available online for other organizations to use.