Claiming Home as a Women's Human Right
Posted on: Wednesday, March 9, 2011
From the myMADRE blog.Yesterday, as I joined with the women of our partner organization in Guatemala City to celebrate International Women’s Day, a phrase occurred to me: “I feel at home.” I greeted partners I had not seen in a long time and met new people, and there was something very familiar about being there. In the face of violence, poverty and displacement, these are women who reconstitute “home” in the circles of support they build together—like so many other grassroots women’s groups we partner with worldwide.
Here on the outskirts of Guatemala City, where many women and families have been displaced far from their homes by a history of violence and conflict, the question of home carries weight. Guatemala suffered through a 36-year civil war, only reaching a peace accord in 1996. During that conflict, US-trained and -funded military groups targeted rural Indigenous Peoples, killing over 200,000 and displacing as many as 1.5 million people. Acting in the interests of business elites, this sustained state terror was needed to force rural, Indigenous people to submit to land policies that favored agribusiness.
Years after the peace accord, people continue to suffer from the legacy of massacres, disappearances and displacement. Many who fled their homes first because of violence found themselves unable to go back when agribusinesses bought up their land and blocked their return. The structural adjustment policies advanced by international financial institutions like the World Bank only exacerbated poverty and landlessness. People sought refuge in shanty-towns around Guatemala City, where they now face serious health threats, lack of basic services and persistent violence. Women living in these circumstances now confront the constant threat of targeted killing, or feminicide, and the on-going failure of the government to prioritize their lives.
For women particularly vulnerable to these threats, grassroots women’s groups like MADRE’s partner, the Women Workers’ Committee, are indispensable. As I looked around yesterday, I saw women who are offering health services to women who have no other option. They are demanding rights for the women who work in maquilas (sweatshops) when powerful interests would rather brush those protections aside.
On this trip, I brought with me something I first wrote back in 1998, when I was just starting at MADRE. So much of it still holds true today:
The loss of home dislocates people from the continuity of community life, pitching them into a zone of isolated, privatized experience. People who have been driven off their land to the slums around Guatemala City are crowded together by the tens of thousands. But they often describe life in the shanty-towns as lonely and isolated. In fact, the many social mechanisms and cultural expressions that once enabled people to pool resources, to care for each other and to develop shared understanding, wither outside of the traditional environment in which they were developed. As these mechanisms deteriorate, so do people's sense of accountability and connection to each other. This distortion of culture and community is often the goal of mass displacement.When women who are refugees, homeless, migrants or displaced gather together to organize, they defy the isolation and social breakdown that is homelessness. In MADRE-supported programs, women who have been uprooted and dispossessed are creating possibilities to come together, to share experiences and to support one another. Through their work, they reconstitute "home" for themselves and their communities and build a basis for overcoming their dispossession.
By Yifat Susskind, MADRE Executive Director
For more updates from our visit to Guatemala, and to find out how you can become a "virtual delegate", click here.
Archives"Press Room" Home November 2014 October 2014 September 2014 August 2014 July 2014 June 2014 May 2014 April 2014 March 2014 February 2014 January 2014 December 2013 November 2013 October 2013 September 2013 August 2013 July 2013 June 2013 May 2013 April 2013 March 2013 February 2013 January 2013 December 2012 November 2012 October 2012 September 2012 August 2012 July 2012 June 2012 May 2012 April 2012 March 2012 February 2012 January 2012 December 2011 November 2011 October 2011 September 2011 August 2011 July 2011 June 2011 May 2011 April 2011 March 2011 February 2011 January 2011 December 2010 November 2010 October 2010 September 2010 August 2010 July 2010 June 2010 May 2010 April 2010 March 2010 February 2010 January 2010 December 2009 November 2009 October 2009 September 2009 August 2009 July 2009 June 2009 May 2009 April 2009 March 2009 February 2009 January 2009 December 2008 November 2008 October 2008 September 2008 August 2008 July 2008 June 2008 May 2008 April 2008 March 2008 February 2008 January 2008 December 2007 November 2007 October 2007 September 2007 August 2007 June 2007 May 2007 April 2007 March 2007 February 2007 January 2007 December 2006 November 2006 October 2006 September 2006 July 2006 June 2006 April 2006 March 2006 January 2006 December 2005 November 2005 September 2005 August 2005 July 2005 April 2005 March 2005 November 2004 October 2004 April 2004 March 2004 January 2004 December 2003 October 2003 September 2003 June 2003 April 2003 January 2003 September 2002 June 2002 January 2002 November 2001 October 2001 September 2001 August 2001 January 2001
MADRE & Our Partners Make News
Iraqi government 'likely complicit' in persecution of LGBT community (The Guardian, November 19, 2014)
LGBT Iraqis face 'imminent risk of death' under Islamic State (Washington Blade, November 19, 2014)
Iraq: "When Coming Out is a Death Sentence" (San Diego Gay & Lesbian News, November 19, 2014)
The World's Obsession With Schoolgirls As Victims, And Why It's Putting Them In Danger (Think Progress, November 9, 2014)
Forbidden Talk - Prostitution in the Middle East (Levant TV, October 7, 2014)