Women Moving Forward in Guatemala

Posted by Kathleen Guerra
October 28, 2012
Ambassador Verveer at Women Moving Forward Event in Guatemala

As diplomats, one of our most important functions is to get to know the people of our host country. What do they think about what's happening in the world? How do they view the critical issues of the day in their country? And what is their opinion on the United States?

Here in Guatemala, as Cultural Affairs Officer, I am lucky to have a job that allows me to do just that. I travel to many remote sites around the country, to check up on our English teaching programs or to visit an archaeological site we support with a grant from the Ambassador's Fund for Cultural Preservation. I meet a wide variety of people from all over Guatemala: young, old, rural, urban, rich, poor, male, female. I talk to them, and I learn a lot about their lives.

But some things, like gender-based violence, I will never understand. This issue was central in a visit last Friday by Ambassador-at-Large for Global Women's Issues Melanne Verveer. On the last day of her three-day stay in Guatemala, we put together a launch event for "Mujeres Adelante" ("Women Moving Forward"), a Department of State initiative in conjunction with the Seattle International Foundation that will bring dozens of women from Central America to the United States for training on how to prevent gender-based violence. The statistics for gender-based violence in Guatemala are horrifying: on average, two women are killed each day in Guatemala, and per UNDP reporting two out of three women murdered are killed because of their gender. Domestic violence goes largely unreported. The Mujeres Adelante initiative will identify emerging women leaders who are already working in their communities to prevent and respond to gender-based violence, and will enable them to share best practices and collaborate with other women leaders in the region.

Two Guatemalan women participated in an early version of Mujeres Adelante last summer, traveling to Seattle and Washington, D.C. One is a social worker, and the other works for an NGO that provides services to survivors of gender-based violence. Daily, they work to end the scourge of gender-based violence, a cause and consequence of gender inequality throughout the world.

These two Guatemalan participants arrived early to the Mujeres Adelante event, one a bit later than the other. As I was rushing around ensuring that everything was ready, I noticed that the later arrival looked upset. When I asked her what was wrong, she told me she'd just been robbed outside the hotel where the event was taking place. She and a group of other women had been accosted by a man with a knife, who took their possessions. Minutes later, she spoke in front of a hundred people, including journalists, about her experience in the United States and her work, unshaken as if nothing had just happened to her.

A woman who is fighting to end violence in Guatemala was herself a victim and survivor of violence on her way to the launch of a program to help prevent and respond to violence. Shocking? Yes. Did this break HER spirit? No. Guatemalan women are forging ahead despite these challenges, strengthening my conviction that the work I do in support of them has deep meaning and lasting impact.



Don L.
February 28, 2013

Don L. in Guatemala writes:

I have a way of feeding the poor in Guatemala, but need someone that has connections here. If you are interested in learning how please contact me.


Barbara W.
District Of Columbia, USA
March 27, 2013

Dr. Barbara W. in Washington, D.C. writes:

I was inspired by your post on gender violence and the story of the social worker who is working to abolish gender violence in Guatemala. I will be taking a small group of masters level social work students on a study tour to Guatemala on May 23 for two weeks. We are focusing on education of deaf children for our tour and also social work programs in Guatemala. We will be working with a new deaf school in Jocotenango, LAVOSI. This school needs books and resources. Does your office make donations to schools in Guatemala? There is a nice video on this school at this link: deafnation.com/joelbarish/world-tour/guatemala-lavosi/

I would love to have you visit this school while we are there, or put you in touch with the Director, Alvaro de Leon.

Best regards,

Dr. Barbara White, Professor
Department of Social Work
Gallaudet University
Washington, DC


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