Anita Peña Saavedra

Nationality: Chilean
Living in: Santiago, Chile
Twitter: @anpenasaavedra

Feminist activist and researcher, Fondo Aquimia


Video: Anita talks about the AFSEE programme (in English)
Video: Anita sobre el AFSEE programa (en español)

Anita received a scholarship to study for a bachelor’s degree in public administration and a master’s in gender studies in Chile, before completing a master’s in social policy and development at LSE. Because of her trajectory, working in the feminist movement in Chile, Anita received an award from her home town, Algarrobo.

In 2015, Anita started working in the cabinet of the Vice Minister of Women in the Chilean government. She was an adviser to the Vice Minister on sexual and reproductive rights issues and gender policies. During that time, Anita was also actively involved in the struggle to decriminalise abortion in Chile for three cases; when the pregnancy is a risk to a woman’s life, in the case of foetus unviability, and in cases of rape.

From 2004 Anita has been part of the feminist movement in Chile when she started organising campaigns with other young women at Valparaíso University. In 2008 she was involved in the feminist movement in Mexico, in Ciudad Juárez. There she was involved in Red Mesa de Mujeres, struggling to end violence against women and girls. In 2010 she was involved in the feminist resistance in Honduras. Between 2011 and 2015 Anita returned to Chile to join the campaign for abortion rights.

During her stay in London, between 2015 and 2017, she was involved with Sisters Uncut, a direct-action group working against austerity cuts connected to violence against women. Currently, she is supporting local feminist movements in rural areas of Chile where women are campaigning on environmental issues, specifically the extraction of natural resources. She is part of a group of people who work from the perspective of feminist economics. Anita complements her professional and academic work with her activism, connecting her learning process at Santo Tomás University with social justice and social struggle.

Anita is also a consultant in the Women’s Institute of Chile, responsible for the monitoring and evaluation of the project to prevent violence against the country’s young women and LGBT people. This project will be implemented over three years (2018-2021) in eight regions of Chile. The project has three stages: first it will undertake a study on violence against LGBT people and women in Chile, in the second year it will develop workshops and learning processes in each community in which it is based, and finally it will develop a national campaign to prevent violence.

Currently, Anita is a researcher at Fondo Aquimia, a feminist philanthropic organisation. She also works as an academic at Santo Tomás University, where she teaches social protection systems and labour for students of social work.


Personal Statement

I am interested in understanding the intersectional causes of gender inequalities; specifically with a focus on violence against women. I would like to understand whether intersectionality is an approach that can allow me to see other causes of violence against women, and to target it through innovative strategies. I would like to answer the questions of how and why gender policies (e.g., violence against women and abortion regulation) in Chile have both intended and unintended effects on gender relations and sexuality. The health system is often the first-level way to identify and provide services to survivors of domestic violence. General practitioners have the duty to report cases of domestic violence, but there are no studies which show how this reporting impacts the women involved. The fact that 48% of femicide cases occurred in instances where the state failed to effectively guarantee women’s safety is an indication that the current policies may not be working. Moreover, 48% of those killed were women with protection measures, living in a refuge or a place where the perpetrator could not be close to her.

So is state regulation an effective answer to domestic violence? Does the health-based approach to domestic violence help prevent the risk to women or is this approach making the issues of safety and security more complex to attend?

I applied to the Atlantic Fellows for Social and Economic Equity programme because I would like to think carefully around these issues and to learn how I can help design a strategy to avoid some of the unintended effects of policies aimed at preventing violence against women. As a policy maker, I am well aware of the challenges; what I need is the time, space and access to international expertise to help me design better policies to address those challenges. As an activist I see how my community in Chile is affected by institutional violence, environmental problems, and an increased immigrant population, among others. Thus, I am involved in a collective process with a community-based feminist organisation in Chile with whom we are thinking about the strategies of action. I am committed to share all my new knowledge and experience gained from the AFSEE programme for building feminist methodologies to challenge intersectional inequalities in the private and public spheres of women’s life.

I want change and I want to be part of it.

In the future, I see myself as an agent of a change within my country and in the wider Latin American region. I see myself as important actor in the sphere of gender policies and in tackling gender-based and other forms of inequality. I would like to have the responsibility to lead a national programme of gender equality policies. Always, with one foot in the community sector, I see myself continuing to engage with the grassroots so as to make and share learning, and to mobilise collectively.