Month 1

Vineeta Singh is young American college graduate woman who in 2010 worked in Guatemala as an English teacher for a well-to-do private school.  As she learned about the violent reality of Guatemala, particularly for women, Vineeta looked around for activities that she could get involved with. She found this website first then Lucia Muñoz, who welcomed her immediately.  Vineeta quickly embraced the Hombres Contra Feminicidio Campain and soon became a co-facilitator. She returned to Guatemala in February 2011 to work with MIA for 5 months.

…………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..

Yesterday I finished a whole month working full-time for MIA.

It feels like just yesterday that I met Lucia for the first time and she took me to the plaza central for an authentic atól experience.

At the same time, it feels like I’ve been working with my co-facilitators for a lifetime.

Most of this last month for me consisted of paperwork and legwork. Both of these things taught me that the only way to not go crazy working for an NGO in Guatemala is to cultivate a Zen-like tranquility and patience.

Lots of patience

I don’t know how many hours of my first two weeks I spent in waiting rooms trying to get in some face-time with this or that contact at the San Carlos University, how many times I told Lucia, “No I still haven’t heard back from…” But with patience and persistence I’m making sure all my chair-warming and e-mail sending gets me responses.

On the Feb. 11th, I finally got to show off my stuff at USAC when Paco and I facilitated a mini-workshop with activities from workshops 1 and 4 of Hombres Contra Feminicidio for everyone who works at the Unidad de Salud at the University. (Check out the pictures on the Facebook page!)

On the 15th, Edwin (El Colocho) and I started our workshops at La Escuela Primara Pedro Pablo Valdéz in zone 1 with boys in fourth, fifth, and sixth grades. The kids are really energetic, and they’ve been makind. El Colocho and me work really hard to channel all that energy into class discussions. Some of them have taken workshops with other facilitators before and they’re really an interesting bunch with opinions all over the spectrum.

On the 18th, Paco and I started our workshops at instituto INCA in Zone 1 with girls in high school (I want to say they’re all sections of the 10th grade, but I might be totally wrong, they’re in 4to magisterio, and Paco and Jenny have explained the school system to me multiple times, but it just won’t stick.). More on them when I’ve had a chance to hear from them in class discussions.

Recently, I’ve been spending time training two brand new facilitators: Manolo and Carlos. Manolo is an old friend of MIA’s who used to work with delegations a couple of years ago and is going to make his debut as a bona fide facilitator on the 10th of March, when we officially start up at the University. Carlos is a “practicante” (intern), who’s working with MIA to fulfill his internship requirement for school. He just started with us this week but we hope to have him ready to facilitate on the 10th too.

I unfortunately have to be out of town on the day of our big debut, so Lucia is going to be the one to dazzle our students on Day 1 with Manolo and Carlos.

Looking ahead to the next week, there will be a lot of planning and rehearsing with the new facilitators to make sure they’re ready to shine on the 10th and last-minute logistics double-checking to make sure we get all our prospective students in the right place at the right time.

More to come in March 2011.

Recommendation Letter

Recommendation Letter for Lucia Muñoz and Women Initiating in the Americas, MIA

:: Scroll down for Spanish version ::

I am Professor of Political Science and Director of the Latin American & Caribbean Studies Program at Long Island University in Brooklyn, New York. I have known Lucia Muñoz for a good many years, as we have both been involved in human rights issues and particularly concerned with the situation in Guatemala. Lucia is a woman who bridges two cultures. She operates easily both in the United States, where she grew up, and in Guatemala, where she was born. She is bilingual, and her human rights work has spanned both countries.

I am very familiar with Lucia’s work with the Guatemala Peace and Development Network and with Mujeres Iniciando en las Américas, MIA (Women Initiating in the Americas, MIA), which is associated with the Network. MIA’s goal is to fight abuse and femicide in Guatemala, where violence and impunity are endemic, and to empower women and girls. Lucia is the founder, organizer, administrator, educator, and leader of the organization. She has worked tirelessly to develop MIA, organize educational programs, and put together delegations to visit Guatemala and meet with key government leaders, human rights advocates, and women from the communities. She has worked on a shoestring budget to open new possibilities for change in Guatemala, creating workshops and training sessions in both elementary schools and in university settings, and even in the National Police Academy.

In fact, MIA is on the brink of signing a contract with the National University of San Carlos that will extend MIA’s pilot workshop program to all eighteen campuses of this university in the country. I think it important to explain something about Lucia’s strategy with MIA. Most organizations devoted to advancing women’s rights focus on promoting the development and leadership of women and girls directly, and indeed, MIA does this by training women and girls to strengthen their skills, acquire education, and develop leadership. But MIA also is using a parallel and original approach as well: to educate men and boys about respect for women as individuals, partners, and important members of the community. The logic is that since men and boys commit violence against women, they need to be educated and, hopefully, will come to realize that they have a key role to play in the recognition of women’s rights. Lucia has made extensive efforts to incorporate men as volunteers with MIA as well as to reach out to men in Guatemala through her education programs. MIA has launched La Campaña Hombres Contra Femicidio (Men Against Femicide) and offered workshops to develop the skills of Guatemalan young people, male and female, who will then branch out and work with civil society organizations and schools in the country. While in the United States the approach of working with men might be considered unusual, I find it to be a novel and effective one for the conditions in Guatemala (and for that matter, in the U.S.). Lucia and MIA deserve support and encouragement for tackling the difficult task of confronting machismo and the high levels of violence against women in Guatemala.

MIA carries out other work as well. One of the targets of gang violence in Guatemala has been public buses. Armed gangs board buses and rob the passengers, and often threaten drivers or demand a payoff from them. Numerous bus drivers have been killed. MIA has initiated a program to meet with and support widows of slain bus drivers, and in several cases has provided microcredit to widowed women who want to start their own businesses.

Lucia has also appeared on Guatemalan radio and television, and has given presentations at various venues in Guatemala to spread the word about MIA’s work. She has met with the Ombudsman for Human Rights in Guatemala and has a good relationship with that office. I could go on but I hope that the range and importance of MIA’s work is clear (MIA has an informative website at http://miamericas.info).

On a personal level, Lucia is a cheerful, energetic, dynamic woman who is deeply dedicated and committed to the cause of women’s rights. She has been willing to make personal sacrifices to advance the work in Guatemala, including choosing a personal life of austerity and spending extended time in Guatemala away from her family. Her path has not been easy but it is no exaggeration to say that she is determined and she is visionary.

I strongly recommend Lucia Muñoz’s MIA for funding support. If you would like to further discuss my recommendation please feel free to call or email me. Thank you.

J. Patrice McSherry, Ph.D.

Professor of Political Science and Director of

Latin American & Caribbean Studies Program

Long Island University

1 University Plaza

Brooklyn, NY 11201 – USA

Carta de recomendación para Lucía Muñoz y M.I.A., Mujeres Iniciando en las Américas

Soy profesora de ciencias políticas y directora del Programa de Estudios del Caribe y Latinoamericanos de la Universidad de Long Island en Brooklyn, New York. Tengo ya varios años de conocer a Lucía ya que ambas hemos estado involucradas en temas de derechos humanos y en particular la situación de Guatemala. Lucía es una mujer que conecta dos culturas. Ella trabaja con mucha facilidad en los Estados Unidos, donde ella creció, y en Guatemala, donde ella nació. Ella es bilingue y su trabajo por los derechos humanos se ha llevado a cabo en ambos países.

Tengo el gusto de estar familiarizada con el trabajo de Lucia con la Red por la Paz y el Desarrollo de Guatemala y M.I.A., Mujeres Iniciando en las Américas, que esta asociada con esa Red. Los objetivos de M.I.A. buscan apoderar a las mujeres y niñas, y erradicar el abuso y feminicidio contra las mujeres en Guatemala, donde la violencia e impunidad son endemicas. Lucia es la fundadora, organizadora, administradora, educadora y lider de la organización. Ella ha trabajado incansablemente para desarrollar MIA, organizar programas educativos y llevar a cabo delegaciones de estudiantes a Guatemala, con los que se reune con importantes personas del gobierno, activistas de derechos humanos y mujeres victimas de violencia.  Todo esto, Lucia lo ha llevado a cabo con un presupuesto muy minimo que limita las oportunidades de cambio para Guatemala. Lucia y M.I.A. han creado talleres educativos para escuelas de primaria, secundaria y nivel universitario, incluyendo la Academia de la Policiía Nacional Civil.

M.I.A. recientemente ha firmado un convenio de cooperación con la Universidad de San Carlos que permite que se pueda extender el programa piloto en todas las facultades y escuelas de esta casa de estudios.

Me parece importante explicar algo acerca de la estrategia de M.I.A. La gran maryoría de organizaciones dedicadas a promover los derechos de las mujeres se enfoncan directamente en el desarrollo y liderazgo de mujeres y niñas, y así como estas, M.I.A. hace esto por medio de capacitar mujeres y niñas para mejorar sus habilidades, recibir educación y desarrollar su liderazgo. Pero M.I.A. también usa una técnica nueva y que va de la mano con todo este trabajo: educar a los niños y hombres sobre el respeto a las mujeres como individuos, como parejas y como miembros importantes de nuestra comunidad. La lógica detrás de este trabajo es que ya que son los hombres y niños los que comete la gran mayoría de actos de violencia contra las mujeres, ellos necesitan ser educados para que, ojalá, se den cuenta de que ellos tienen también un rol importante que jugar para garantizar los derechos de la mujer. Lucía ha hecho esfuerzos importantes para incorporar a hombres como voluntarios de M.I.A., así como acercarse a los hombres en Guatemala por medio de programas educativos.

M.I.A. ha lanzado la Campaña Hombres Contra Femicidio (Men Against Femicide) y ofrece talleres para desarrollar las habilidades de la juventud guatemalteca, hombres y mujeres, que con el tiempo se acercarán a trabajar con organizaciones de la sociedad civil y centros educativos en todo el país.

Mientas en los EE.UU. la técnica de trabajar con hombres puede ser inusual. Yo encuentro esto como una manera novedosa y efectiva para trabajar en las condiciones de Guatemala (y por eso mismo, también para los EE.UU.)

Lucia y M.I.A. merecen todo el apoyo por llevar a cabo la dificil tarea de confrontar el machismo y los altos niveles de violencia contra las mujeres en Guatemala.

M.I.A. también lleva a cabo otras labores. Uno de los objetivos de la violencia de pandillas ha sido los conductors de transporte público. Pandillas con armas de fuego suben a los buses, asaltan a los pasajeros y con frecuencia amenazan al conductor y le piden un impuesto. Muchas veces estos conductors han sido asesinados ahí mismo. M.I.A. ha iniciado un programa para apoyar a las mujeres que han enviudador por el asesinato de sus esposos conductores de buses. Actualmente M.I.A. lleva a cabo un programa piloto de microcreditos a las viudas para que comienzen su propio negocio.

Lucia ha aparecido en programas de radio y television guatemalteca y ha dado presentaciones en varios lugares como universidades en los EE.UU. y Guatemala. También, M.I.A. tiene una excelente relacion professional con la Procuraduría de Derechos Humanos de Guatemala. La lista es larga, pero mi interés es que este claro el precedente que el trabajo de M.I.A. marca. Para más información, puede visitar el sitio http://miamericas.info

A nivel personal, Lucia es una persona muy enérgica, dinámica y alegre que esta muy comprometida con la causa de los derechos humanos. Ella ha estado dispuesta a hacer sacrificios personales para poder avanzar el trabajo en Guatemala, incluyendo la decisión de pasar tiempo en Guatemala, lejos de su familia. Este trayecto no ha sido fácil, pero no es una exhageración el afirmar que ella es ta muy segura de lo que hace y cree en su visón progresista.

Yo recomiendo a Lucía Muñoz y M.I.A. para que le apoyen financieramente. Si quiere hablar con más detalle sobre mi recomendación, puede llamarme o escribirme un email.

Gracias por su atención:

J. Patrice McSherry, Ph.D.

Professor of Political Science and Director of Latin American & Caribbean Studies Program

Long Island University 1 University Plaza

Brooklyn, NY 11201- USA