Guatemala Travel Blog – November 2012

On Sunday, November 4th, we made the long trek to Salama to spend the night before our visit with FNE in Rabinal.  FNE’s school was not in session but a number of parents, students and teachers were at the school to share their experiences. Sandra Lopez, ED, and Antonio, school director, gave a tour and overview of the program. Their programs are interactive with a strong focus on local tradition and culture and the recent history (late 1980’s) of massacres in the Rabinal communities. Curriculum is both in the classroom and practical. Students work side by side with their tudors learning sustainable agriculture and animal husbandry. The cultural museum Pangea funded in 2011 is in a small room with the most important masks, the Achi warriors, displayed in a glass case. In addition to classrooms they have a computer room and dormitories for 30 students (15 girls and 15 boys). We also met Jesus Tecu’ Osorio, President of the board and founder of ABJP, a human rights organization in Rabinal. The trip to Rabinal was long on winding mountain roads. For those of you on the last trip you will appreciate we had both dinner on Sunday and lunch the next day at Pollo Camparo. On November 5, we had dinner with the founder and director of UDEFEGUA in Guatemala City before returning to Antigua. UDEFEGUA supports human rights defenders through monitoring, accompanying, training and networking. Claudia provided interesting background on how the human rights movement started out of the Peace Accords. She’s an amazing woman doing this difficult and dangerous work for over 13 years. The next day (November 6th) we visited Maya aj Sya. School which was not in session (graduation was week prior) so no marimba music or children dancing. But Victoria had arranged a meeting with parents and teachers. I’m happy to say they have the same committed parents and two of the teachers were at our last meeting in 2009. Teachers are now getting full salary, paid monthly and turnover is lower. The math teacher said, from his experience, the Maya students seem brighter and more curious and believes graduating students will do well in the middle school. The pre-school teacher gave a touching account of how a child announced to the class he was not coming back next year. One by one the little pre-school children stood up and said they were coming back to Maya aj sya for as long as they can because they teach Kak’Chiquel. Maya is still struggling to find money to buy land and build a school.  The more questions we asked the more questions we had. At the end of the visit we drove with Victoria and 4 of the teachers to see the plot of land they purchased last year. It is very small (approx. 1/8 acre) and is currently covered in broccoli. CEADEL November 7, 2012 Next we visited CEADEL. I have to say, I was even more impressed than I was 3 years ago. They are now in their new building and have added an arts program that includes marimba, song and dance. The communications/ broadcasting program has expanded to 19 students working with 19 community radio stations and an alliance with the University of San Marcos. Their computer program is now certified by the Board of Education. Similar to our last visit, we heard stories from children age 10-14 that were working as domestics or as laborers and are now able to study full time and attend CEADEL programs once or twice a week. CEADEL is still committed to eliminating child labor and other violations against children. We had a long discussion with Gabriel, Gladis and their accountant regarding their budget. The US AID grant ended in April of this year.

A small reception area outside Generando offices.

Our afternoon meeting on Wednesday, November 7th, was with Association Generando in Chimaltenango.  The co-founder and Executive Director is a current iLEAP fellow. Generando was formed 3 years ago to work with young women in their communities. They started with a campaign in 2009 focused on teen pregnancy. It was called “I’m not ready yet”.  In 2010 they applied for registration as a CAIMU. CAIMU stands for center for integral support for women. By law, each state is supposed to have a CAIMU but only 7 (out of 22) have been approved. Generando is seeing 1-2 new cases each day.  Most of these involve violence against women and girls. A social worker does the intake and refers them for psychological and legal services. They have 400 legal cases.  40 have been taken to court and 360 are still active. In addition to services provided in the CAIMU Generando organizes youth groups in the communities and provides training on leadership, reproductive health, women’s rights and violence prevention. Generando’s work is highly politicized. They are doing research on the impact of militarization on rates of violence against women. Much of their work comes at great risk to them personally.  They’ve recently received training on security from UDEFEGUA. On November 8, 2012 We met with AFFEDES program officers, board members and women from the community groups. AFEDES was formed by a group of indigenous women after the 1996 Peace Accords. AFEDES has 64 members in communities in and around Chlmaltenango. Members are organized into groups of 8-10 women. Programs include nutrition and food security, women’s education and empowerment and advocacy at the local and national level on gender based violence. We met with program officers, board members and women from the community groups.

Program Officer for Women’s Economic Development

This photo shows an analysis of the number of hours women work compared to men.  Women typically work 19 hours a day (including child care and domestic chores) and men work 12 hours. It also showed this inequity starts early. Girl children spend more time doing chores than boy children. In some cases, women have been able to change attitudes at home. Malnutrition is a big issue in Guatemala. Even though Chimaltenango is agricultural, malnutrition is close to 50% in women and children. AFEDES provides training on growing food in small plots and growing herbs for medicines. Several women talked about how growing food and herbs has impacted their family’s health. They are seeing less illness and saving money on prescription drugs. The director of AFEDES, Amarillis, was leaving just as we arrived. She is a council member in her district and a special meeting had been called. The President was proposing a constitutional amendment to change the law to allow the military to take over security. November 9th, we visited FAPE, a micro-finance organization with village banks in departments around Guatemala City. They have just added a training program to help women develop and manage their businesses. Mabilia Joj (2010 iLEAP fellow) is the Program Coordinator. Mabilia organized a meeting with two of their village banks. FAPE provides small loans to women to start or grow small businesses. Loans are from 1-2,000 Quetzels and are made to individuals but the village banks are organized into groups of 8 women. They meet every two weeks to make their payments. Payments include principal, interest and 20 Q saving. The women in the meetings all had small businesses. Some were weavers, some sold vegetables in the market, others made baked goods to sell. The profits they made were small. FAPE loans provide working capital and can be renewed every 6 months. November 10th, we went on to see The Women’s Justice Initiative, formed in 2011 to provide training in communities on women’s human rights including domestic violence, reproductive rights, and inheritance and property rights. There are two main training programs. The first program, Women’s Rights Education, is taught in 5 communities in Patzun. They trained over 100 women in 2012. The second program is the Community Advocates Program.  This program trains women to be leaders, women’s rights educators, and mentors to their peers. Two women are picked from each of the communities to receive additional training. We were fortunate to observe both a community training session and an advocates training. The photo above shows an exercise on gender equity. Women were asked to write on a piece of paper, the difference between men and women. These were then listed under sex or gender. The training was being taught in Kak’Chiquel and the trainers are local women. The Community Trainer above (on the right) worked for Population Council before joining WJI. WJI has also started a mobile legal service in one of the 5 communities. The program focuses on women’s ownership and inheritance rights.  A priority identified by the community. Other gender based violence issues are currently referred to community-based programs in Chimaltenango.

Past Latin America Travel Blog

 Guatemala 2009, Note: There were other site visits over the years but they were not documented by blogs. All future site visits will be documented this way.