Editor’s Note: Stirring the Fire comes to you from Guatemala where our team is producing a documentary about how Population Council Guatemala is preventing violence against Mayan women. STF team member Kara Marnell reports from the field below.
Irma Catú is one of the Social Change Agents currently interning with the Defensoría de la Mujer Indígena (DEMI- Office for the Defense of Indigenous Women) in Quetzaltenango.
A tragic human rights crisis is unfolding in Guatemala, a country with a grim history of violence and decades of civil war, as abuse against women continues to grow at horrifying rates. According to the United Nations, nearly 45% of Guatemalan women have suffered some form of violence in their lifetime and cases of rape, torture, and even murder of females are widespread. While a corrupt patriarchal society rooted in inequality may have tolerated and enabled such injustice, global advocates have moved to reveal the stories of these victims and to begin to combat the brutality endured by Guatemalan women and girls.
The challenge to replace stories of abuse and oppression with those of equality, respect and peace is nearly overwhelming, but change in Guatemala, as demonstrated in other countries, is never impossible but begins with revealing the bitter truth. Phil Borges, a renowned social documentary filmmaker and photographer, will lead this trip, along with a dedicated and talented team of researchers, to assist in the process of documenting, recording and filming the stories of these women. Rajesh, Mixtli, and I will assist with the filming, photography, and social media of this project with the goal to expose these tragedies and give voice to the marginalized and oppressed.
As we embark on this incredible journey, we are thrilled but can barely begin to understand how this experience will influence all of our lives but, more importantly, the hopeful impact it will have on those we meet. We are prepared to add a voice for the victims, who are mothers, daughters, sisters and nieces and to stand up, and influence discussion and debate and to help protect these women and girls who have been marginalized and their treatment ignored for far too long. We expect to be a part of promising change in the lives of these women and the future of their daughters.
During our journey, we will update the Stirring the Fire blog with regularly reports about our interviews and our findings along the way. Continue following this blog to learn, along with us, more about Population Council Guatemala’s programs serving our Guatemalan friends.
Indigenous young women as change agents against violence in Guatemala
The high prevalence of gender-based violence in Guatemala leaves Mayan women and girls living in poor and isolated communities particularly exposed to risk. In a powerful approach to empower indigenous young women as agents of change in their communities, Population Council Guatemala, with support from the UN Trust Fund to End Violence against Women, is pairing them with mentors from local organizations, to engage them in a range of prevention activities.
Among other things, the girls undertake GPS-based community mapping, plotting every household, building and route to produce maps that show where girls and women feel safe or at risk. The maps are making young women and their safety concerns visible for the first time, catalyzing community-wide discussion about violence against women and girls and ways the community could come together to prevent it. In addition, Population Council is training a cadre of girl leaders in participatory video to highlight issues of gender and violence in their communities.
The UN Trust Fund to End Violence against Women, administered by UN Women, is a leading source of support for efforts to end violence against women and girls across the world. You can join this vital work by donating to the UN Trust Fund and by taking action at Say No – UNiTE to End Violence against Women.