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Indigenous Women Survivors See New Possibilities for the Future

When MADRE staff visited our partners in Guatemala, we traveled from community to community, meeting with grassroots women organizers. We saw so clearly the impact that supporters like you make possible. That’s why we wanted to share a few stories and snapshots with you.

The women of MUIXIL, our partner organization, promote Indigenous women's rights and wellbeing through skill-building, education, and leadership training. During our trip, women came together across generations to learn from each other and share Indigenous healing traditions. These healing workshops enable mothers to speak to their children about the trauma they experienced — and empower younger generations to carry on the history and memory of what they endured, but leaving behind the fear.

Together, MADRE and MUIXIL train Indigenous women to fight for their rights and protect their communities. In one workshop, Engracia Mendoza, an Indigenous leader, spoke to women gathered from different rural communities about her life of activism.

"I have a voice and I know my rights,” she said. “It is important for women to know their rights, laws, how the political system operates, and how to defend their rights. As women, we are going to rise up and move forward."

With your support, these women also work for their economic independence. Pictured above is Catarina, a domestic violence survivor who lives in a one-room house with her four children. Thanks to MADRE's supporters, she was able to build a chicken coop in her yard. One by one, her flock grew to 15 chickens, and Catarina is now able to support her family by selling their eggs along with the vegetables she grows in her garden.

During our trip we also organized a group of 15 Indigenous women to visit Chel, a community that was targeted during the civil war and suffered a massacre in 1982 -- and the trauma from those days still lives on. Chel is a remote community that receives little to no support from the government.

In sisterhood and solidarity, our delegation discussed women's rights and how their community organized to oppose a hydropower plant that is threatening their region. From one community to another, they shared the lessons they had learned about how to heal from the past and build a new future. They also held a healing ceremony to pay tribute to those who were killed in the genocide.

At the end of the trip, Natalia Caruso, our Director of Grantmaking and Partnerships, reflected on the transformation she witnessed in these women over the years:

“When I first visited this community in Guatemala 10 years ago, I could see that women were still weighed down by the trauma of the genocide they’d survived. Now, it’s different. After years of organizing together, the women can see new possibilities for the future. They tell me of their plans to step forward as leaders, educate their children, and demand change. This is the difference you can see when you partner with a community for the long haul.”

MADRE is proud to be a long-term partner of Indigenous women in Guatemala and beyond. With your support, we are promoting healing and helping to build a just and sustainable future.