A Safe Space for Women in Guatemala
Posted on: Thursday, June 21, 2012
“I want to tell the people of MADRE that I am so grateful for the support they have given us and for the contributions they have offered to the community of Barcenas.”
– Sandra Gonzalez, member of the Women Workers’ Committee
Elizabeth Rappaport, a photographer and long-time MADRE supporter, traveled to Guatemala to visit our partner Sandra Gonzalez at the Women Workers’ Committee—an organization that works to combat violence against women in Guatemala.
To learn more about Sandra’s crucial work, check out the interview below.
Elizabeth: Can you tell me one inspirational story you have heard about combating violence against women?
Sandra: Well, one story we recently heard was the femicide of a young woman named Rosemary Gonzalez. We tried to help our friend Betty, Rosemary mother, so that she never feels alone and knows that there are always women who are fighting for her – in our community and internationally. This has been refreshing for us, the power to effect change and the power to help her.
Betty’s family is already being harassed and abused. Her husband was kidnapped and robbed, and his truck was stolen. In response, we are seeking the legal process we need to take and are demanding justice by the public ministry. By taking action, we believe we will have much more power to continue forward within the community…and empower women so that they can move on with their lives.
Women and girls have faced particularly high levels of violence in your community of Barcenas. What is needed to end the epidemic of violence?
First, the condemnation and demands of our organization and our sister organizations. We need to equip women and girls so that they know to defend their empowerment, so that they know how to defend and to counteract this monster that is femicide.
What has the Women Workers Committee of Barcenas done to combat violence against women in the community?
Our organization reaffirms our promise to bring about change for the women in Barcenas…We have denounced the violence and demanded an end to it, at the national and international level. We have worked hard with affected families, giving them psychological support so that they can integrate themselves back into society; it is a very painful process.
Our organization salutes all the women of the world and especially Guatemala, who are voicing our condemnation of different violations against us as women, and specifically against femicide in our country…We continue moving forward.
How do you think the Women Workers’ Committee’s project, Sister Salons for Guatemala, is going to protect women in the community that face violence?
We hope to create a salon in which we can appreciate women’s beauty and elevate their self-esteem because we have to realize that we are equally valuable or even more valuable than the people that violate us. We intend for women to know that they are fighters, that they are enterprising…I think that it will protect them by enabling them, guiding them and teaching them the tools necessary for empowering themselves and moving forward.
How will the Sister Salons project change the lives of women in your community?
Their lives will change largely in respect to their economic situation. More than anything, it will affect their economic situation because they will learn to do this work, which they can conduct in their own areas, and it can provide them with money so they can grow economically and support their families.
We will help these women understand their worth and that we are equals in this society. They will learn that they are enterprising women, fighting women. They will be free women.
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