Weeks 4 and 5 with MIA, David Inczauskis

My time with MIA, Mujeres Iniciando en las Américas, is coming to a close, but the past two weeks have been the most exciting weeks yet.

Just yesterday, I went to the office of the Myrna Mack Foundation to conduct an interview with Helen Mack, the founder and director of the organization that is currently working with the Commission on the National Police Reform to reorganize the current system. She is the link between MIA and the Police Academy and plans to help MIA put its programs into the curriculum at the Academy. This step is essential in the fight against gender-based violence and justice of such crimes because an educated police force that will have participated in MIA’s courses will understand the importance of properly collecting evidence and dealing with the affected families after a violent, gender-based crime.

The courses in USAC, USAC-Chiquimula, and Pedro Pablo Valdez are coming along really well; in fact, last Tuesday in Chiquimula the participants were asked to change the lyrics of two popular Latin American songs; instead of simply reading the lyrics, they decided to sing them! The activity in the all-boys school consisted of self-preservation, the idea that all human beings have the right to live without violence and without threats. In the USAC, students were asked to conduct and interview with a person that has influenced their lives, so I am looking forward to listening to the analysis of these interviews next Thursday.
I currently find myself in Chiquimula getting ready for a trip with the group to the Sweet River and Saint Phillip’s Castle. Both are local historical sites. I will continue with my investigation on Monday with visits to some local organizations that work with gender-related topics, and I will say goodbye to the Chiquimula group on Tuesday after their second-to-last course with MIA.

It is sad that I will have to end my stay here with MIA next Sunday, but the organization and its work have had a huge impact on my life.

Fundraiser: Kickstarter and MIA

Hi all,

Finally after hurdle after hurdle with the Kickstarter people I have an Amazon account that is verified, a video, and a project description that they approve of!

We are attempting to raise $900 in 20 days so we need to start spreading the word to our networks ASAP. That means emails, facebook posts, website posts, text messages, whatever will get people to pledge. The link is below, please write back with any questions or concerns. Thanks!

 

http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/marinawood/the-revolutionary-filmmaking-project-guatemala

 

Marina Wood

Coordinadora de Educación Preventiva

marina at miamericas dot info

MIA, Mujeres Iniciando en las Américas

909-242-3432

 

Cada vez que liberan a una mujer, que liberar a un hombre. – Margaret Mead

 

Week 3 with MIA, Mujeres Iniciando en las Américas, David JW Inczauskis

Unfortunately, the first half of my stay here with MIA has come to a close. Fortunately, we have had an active and successful week in Guatemala City. Last Wednesday we began the courses in the political science and EFPEM departments of the University of San Carlos, and about 40 participants showed up between the two groups. On Thursday, the three courses in engineering, social work, and student health continued with the sharing of many personal stories and opinions concerning the way that we can break gender stereotyping in Guatemala and around the world. Some of the comments provoked interesting discussions that opened me up to different perspectives—perspectives that touched on the main reasons why violence continues to negatively affect the lives of men, women, and children in the capital.

On Friday morning I walked over to Congress to speak to Congresswoman Zury Ríos Montt, a legislator who often supports laws that work to level the playing field between men and women. Our goal was to present to her an effective law from my home state of Illinois that obliges teachers to include rape prevention education in the public and private school systems. Although the representative was not present, I was fortunate enough to run into her later that day at the event of an organization with which MIA closely works—Sobrevivientes. During the event, the congresswoman and I set up an appointment for next Tuesday so that we can sit down and chat about the steps we need to take to make turn this proposal into law.

On Sunday, I ran a 13.1 mile race in Antigua Guatemala, which has little to do with MIA but was a great opportunity to spend some time with a few of the friends that I have made.

Monday was a day jam-packed with meetings, travel, and workshops. I woke up at 6 and headed over to see the British Ambassador to Guatemala. She is an integral part of MIA and one of the reasons why MIA was able to sign a pact with the University of San Carlos to solidify our presence on campus. She and I spoke about her relationship with MIA and discussed possible future sources of funding for the organization. Later, Luis, Regina, and I took a bus to Pedro Pablo Valdez, an all-boys school in Zone 8. The workshop consisted of recognizing popular Guatemalan gender stereotypes. Despite the rambunctiousness of the young men, they were able to identify the stereotypes and the two main objectives of MIA by the end of the class periods.

On Tuesday I continued the workshop in Chiquimula. The four-hour long session produced much dialogue between the participants, and their dramatic renditions of aggressive, passive, and assertive communication skills were rather comical. I look forward to receiving their comments about Guatemala’s Law against feminicide and other forms of violence against women next week. My goal with the participants in Chiquimula is to work with them—considering their experience on the subject—in order to rewrite this law—a law that is not very applicable given its wording and simplicity.

Thanks much for reading, and I look forward to sharing my experiences again next week!

Blog Entry 7/12/2011, David Inczauskis

My second week with MIA has been full of emotional ups and downs. On Thursday the 7th of July, we began “Hombres contra feminicidio” courses at the University of San Carlos in the Engineering Department. About 10 participants showed up, and we were overjoyed because engineering is typically a field with many males but little interest. We continued with the following two courses in Social Work—a class of about 20 participants—and Student Health—a class of about 10. In all of the classes, the participants engaged in provocative discussions and contributed interesting and innovative thoughts and opinions. In fact, the discussions in all of the courses were so intense that we had to reschedule the showing of the video Assassin’s Paradise for next week.

After a long day of training sessions, Yohanna—another one of MIA’s delightful volunteers—and I went to TrovaJazz to listen to some of the most inspirational and motivating music of Latin America. The songs and the environment were particularly relaxing, but shocking and disturbing news disrupted the peace when one of the most famous and devoted trova singers, the Argentine Facundo Cabral, was murdered on Saturday morning on his way to the Guatemalan international airport after a concert here in Guatemala. Nevertheless, the citizens of Guatemala showed their solidarity during a sad but spirited rally in the central square of Zone 1. The speeches touched the hearts of everyone present, and we all hoped that the tears that fell had not fallen in vain and that the Guatemalan government would once and for all take specific steps to end the violence that harasses the daily lives of millions around the country.

On a brighter note, I spent last night—Monday the 11th—and today in Chiquimula, an eastern Guatemalan province that borders both Honduras and El Salvador. It was hot and humid, but the mucky weather did not prevent us from making the most out of the 4 hour long training session. We completed both activities 1 and 2 with the group. The movie Assassin’s Paradise was moving and graphic, so it captured the attention of the majority of the participants. When I had to shut it off, everyone complained.

Basically, the week has been loaded with activities, and I already feel that I am beginning to delve into some deep and heart-felt topics with the participants in USAC and in Chiquimula. We can only hope that MIA continues on its path towards success now that it has officially received NGO status here in Guatemala!

Best, as always,
David JW Inczauskis

Week 1 in Guatemala

My first week of volunteering with MIA, Mujeres Iniciando en las Américas, has been unforgettable!

I left Huehuetenango on Wednesday morning to arrive here in the city around 10 AM, and Lucia and I immediately started getting to work. She showed me around Zona 1 and explained the activities that we would be doing together over the course of the next couple of days. On Thursday, I went to San Carlos University to meet with the professors, doctors, and licensed workers who have created links with MIA to allow us to give courses inside the university about what men and women can do to redefine gender roles and to combat the high levels of feminicide and gender violence here in Guatemala.

During the long Military Day weekend, I met with a few of MIA’s “ambassadors” and was able to interview some of the people that give MIA the opportunity to fortify its programs through their active support. I found out that while MIA only relies on the backing of only a few altruistic, generous donors and unpaid, skilled volunteers, its programs touch the lives of many young men and women who hope to change the course of Guatemala’s violent history.

Today, Monday the 4th of July, I met Yohanna del Aguila, and we went to visit the central office of the Mirna Mack Foundation to establish a relationship between said foundation, the reformers of the Police Academy, and MIA. In addition, we ventured over to USAC again to follow up with the work that I did last Thursday. Both trips were great successes.

This week, we will be beginning the next semester of courses under the “Men against feminicide” campaign at the university, and I will take my first trip over to INCA—an all-girls school—and Pedro Pablo Valdez—an all-boys school in Zona 8. Since I will be co-facilitating these workshops and courses, we have also spent many hours preparing and organizing the lesson plans.

Overall, I have learned that MIA, Mujeres Iniciando en las Américas, is an outstanding non-governmental organization that works tirelessly to accomplish its goals. I am glad and honored to be a volunteer and member of the organization, and I sincerely hope that the organization benefits from my time here in Guatemala. Despite the fact that I have only been here in Guatemala City for 5 days, I already know that the full-experience will remain a part of who I am forever.

I look forward to writing about the upcoming week because we will be engaging in a plethora of exciting workshops and training sessions. Thanks for reading and look out for further posts!

Best,
David JW Inczauskis

Volunteer MIA