When we began organizing the International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP) on Combatting Gender-Based Violence: A Project for Brazil, it started off like any other project. Flights were arranged, meetings with professional resources from around the country were scheduled, and itineraries were finalized. By March 6th, the group of international visitors was all set for a three-week stay in the U.S., with visits to New York City, Syracuse, Cincinnati, and Detroit. Unfortunately, their stay was cut short when the COVID-19 pandemic hit in mid-March, forcing all U.S. Department of State exchange programs to cease in-person activities for the foreseeable future.
While this was new territory for everyone, we did not want this pause in programming to deny participants the invaluable opportunity to discover common ground with their U.S. counterparts and learn new approaches to combatting gender-based violence. We were also acutely aware of the importance of this IVLP’s focus, as both the U.S. and Brazil observed a sharp increase in the number of domestic and gender-based violence cases since the start of quarantine. With this in mind, we set out to curate a series of dynamic virtual meetings that would provide our participants with a diversity of thought and approach, as well as actionable next steps that they could take in their communities. We’ve outlined a few of our lessons learned below.