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Caitlin O’Quinn: Field Research in Costa Rica

Caitlin O’Quinn used her Slape Fellowship Award to pursue field research in Costa Rica in December 2016. She visited several women’s cooperatives and organizations around the country to learn more about the everyday experiences of Costa Rican women.

Caitlin was able to meet with women in rural areas in the northern and southern parts of the country, small coastal towns, and urban areas around the capital of San Jose. Her thesis explores why Costa Rica, a country with a long history of democracy, higher levels of socio-economic development, and a significant history of progressive policies, continues to display uneven and sometimes ineffective efforts to curb and punish violence against women.

Caitlin’s research found that many women still experience gender inequality and consistently high rates of domestic violence, street harassment, and ‘femicides’ in Costa Rica. She noted many women do not know their rights or face inordinate barriers to enjoying the full protection that the law accords them. Her research tackles these concerns and the possibility of solutions in women’s cooperatives and women-led organizations which she found have extremely positive results for women and their local communities.

Caitlin felt it was an extremely meaningful trip and was able to learn foundational information for her final master’s thesis project. She said, “I received the Slape award and in April I presented my research at the Pacific Sociological Society’s annual meeting in Portland (titled: Negotiating Security: Gender, Economics, and Cooperative Institutions in Costa Rica). I have been accepted into the PhD program in Political Science at UO so I’ll be starting that in the Fall. I will also continue my work with the Initiative on Violence Against Women at Harvard’s Carr Center for Human Rights Policy, as well as my work with Warrior Sisters, providing free, empowerment based self defense trainings for women and girls.”