Acting Against Femicide in Guatemala

Mayan Women

Women. They are the subject of these pictures. Why? The gruesome brutality hasn’t stopped. In fact, it has barely dipped. The Latin American Herald Tribune reports that 708 women were violently murdered in Guatemala in 2009. That figure is down compared to the 773 reported violent deaths in 2008, but not by much. There is simply no justice:

According to activist Norma Cruz, who heads the Survivors Foundation that provides help for abused women in Guatemala, no plans exist to guarantee women’s safety. In a statement to reporters, Cruz said that more security agents are needed in areas considered extremely dangerous for women. The activist regretted that even though police and prosecutors nab the aggressors, the courts tend to free them with such substitute measures as letting them out on bail. Guatemala is second in the world in murders of women after Russia, which posts more than 10,000 crimes against women, according to the Human Rights Prosecutor’s Office. Source: Latin American Herald Tribune

Second in the world in murders of women. Jarring. Disheartening. I briefly touched upon this issue in an article I wrote for Revue Magazine. Las Gravileas is a school for low-income women that not only teaches women a wealth of technical skills and business skills, but one that also stresses the importance and value a women plays in her family and community. So, unlike traditional media where only the disappointing statistics are reported, I would like to point readers to a positive response. I would like to offer an opportunity for becoming a part of the solution. Read about Las Gravileas, and, if you dare, become a part of the solution by donating or, better yet, getting involved. (Contact me for more information… if you dare.)

The Guardians of Las Gravileas

A project where women serve their sisters…

The center’s name is symbolic. In a country where coffee represents approximately 10 percent of the gross domestic income, the gravilea tree provides a critical, protective canopy for the shade-loving plant. Just as the gravilea tree provides this fundamental necessity for the cultivation of coffee, so, too, is Las Gravileas meant to offer a protective, nurturing environment for women of every background and ethnicity.

“It’s a name that represents receiving, taking care of, and supporting the growth of a woman,” Project Manager Dalila de Montoya says. The keys to achieving this ideal environment, she adds, are education and training.

Las Gravileas is defined as a center for the promotion and technical training of artisan women. The project offers a large assortment of instruction, ranging from textiles, piñata making and ceramic molding and painting to cooking and baking, basic literacy, business studies and more… continue reading the entire article at Revue Magazine.

Also remember to visit the Survivors Foundation“>Survivors Foundation website. Norma Cruz has just been named Person of the Year 2009 by the Guatemalan national newspaper the Prensa Libre. Contacting her or her organization would also be a great start to becoming a part of the solution.

The women in these pictures are from Santa Caterina Polopó and San Antonio Polopó at Lake Atitán – just a few hours drive from La Antigua Guatemala. Instead of thinking of statistics, think of them and the thousands like them. Beautiful Maya women. Maya mothers, sisters, daughters… whose lives are being violently taken at alarming rates. And for what? A lack of education in their communities. A lack of interest by anyone else.

I leave you with a poem attributed to Pastor Martin Niemöller – hoping it will help instill you to go beyond reading the facts and statics, hoping it will urge you to act.

First they came for the communists, and I did not speak out—because I was not a communist;
Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out—because I was not a trade unionist;
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—because I was not a Jew;
Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak out for me.

text and photos by Laura McNamara

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© 2010 – 2020, Laura McNamara. All rights reserved.

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