Welcome to the website of MIA, Mujeres Iniciando en las Américas MIA seeks to increase awareness of the mistreatment of women in Guatemala, improve their socioeconomic conditions, remove gender bias in the Guatemalan government, promote educational programs to reduce domestic violence and femicide and promote equal treatment for women in Guatemala.
MIA has great volunteers in the US and Guatemala. The volunteers really make our programs happen.
Gender equality education
We deliver our White Ribbon Campaign workshops in elementary schools, middle schools, a university, and at the National Police Academy.
Bus Driver Widows
MIA worked with the widows of bus drivers killed at work. We have arranged microloans for several of the widows so they can create for themselves a way to make a living.
Corn and Oranges
Our activites take us to kitchens and markets. In Guatemala, most people are more connected to food production than we are in the US.
Cathedral in Antigua Guatemala
On our delegation trips, we take side trips to beautiful locations like Antigua, the old capital of Guatemala.
Olga Villalta / Diario Centroamérica / 20 de septiembre de 2011
El miércoles 14 de septiembre, en un matutino local, cinco representantes de oficinas de Naciones Unidas en Guatemala (Unicef, Oacnudh, ONU-Mujeres,Onusida y Unfpa) publicaron una columna de opinión en la que evidencian cómo en la campaña electoral reciente los temas que tienen que ver con la existencia de abortos en condiciones de riesgo para las mujeres, el acceso a métodos anticonceptivos y la educación sexual no fueron abordados con seriedad y desde la perspectiva de los derechos humanos por las/os candidatos.
El aborto sigue siendo el secreto de miles de mujeres que recurren a él cuando se enfrentan a un embarazo no deseado por violación, por incesto, por falta de información o porque como cualquier ser humana, se equivocó. Se condena a las mujeres que lo hacen, pero no se atacan las causas. Para debatir este problema necesitamos que las/os tomadores de decisiones en el Estado se independicen de las posturas religiosas y asuman por fin que vivimos en un Estado laico.
El aborto es un problema social, de salud y de derechos humanos, y aunque en la campaña electoral muchas/os de ellos utilizaron el imaginario religioso para ganar votantes, al ejercer el poder, la ciudadanía debe exigir de ellas/os seriedad en los compromisos asumidos como país en el ejercicio de los derechos humanos, en este caso de las humanas.
Los avances en la legislación guatemalteca, promovidos en lo fundamental por las organizaciones de mujeres, deben respetarse y hacerse realidad. Debemos entender que es el Estado quien debe crear condiciones para la solución de la salud sexual y reproductiva de las mujeres, logrando así el derecho a una maternidad saludable y voluntaria.
El Estado debe realizar acciones hacia los hombres, no solo en el sentido de la responsabilidad en las funciones reproductivas (son ellos los que tienen hijos regados por todos lados), sino en promover una concepción del ejercicio de la sexualidad basada en los derechos humanos.
La criminalización del aborto obliga a las mujeres pobres a recurrir a personal no capacitado, poniendo en riesgo su salud y vida, además de enfrentarse a la estigmatización de la sociedad, viviendo en silencio su culpa.
Tomo la palabra de las/os funcionarios de Naciones Unidas, quienes nos llaman a “un debate que desafíe a respetar los derechos y libertades inherentes a toda persona”. Las y los funcionarios que asumirán sus cargos en enero (Legislativo y Ejecutivo) deben reconocer que existe una responsabilidad estatal respecto al pleno ejercicio de los derechos sexuales y reproductivos de las ciudadanas guatemaltecas.
On Wednesday I facilitated two classes. One on Signs of Abusive Relationships and one Healthy Relationships. Lucia wasn’t able to be there because she was at an event, so it was really nice when two students in the first class helped me open the door to the classroom we use and helped me make copies and set up the projector. Another student, Negli, one of my mentors from my Saturday class, helped me run the projector so I could stay in the front of the class. It was really nice to know that the students are invested in the course. In the first class as we were going over signs of an abusive relationship, the students and I thought of safety plans for survivors, identified “red flags” and types of abuse, and discussed the cycle of abuse. The students also did a group exercise where they determined where different situations which may occur in a relationship belonged on a continuum between “acceptable” and “not acceptable.” The idea behind this was to understand that we all have different ideas of what is acceptable for us personally. One student, as we discussed the safety plan for leaving an abusive relationship shared her personal story of leaving an abusive relationship, such as letting her family know, packing her and her children’s things, getting a new cell phone, saving money, and having a place to go. We thanked the student for sharing her story and we were able to use her example to glean ideas for what we would need to bring in case we leave an abuser. This was touching because it showed that the student trusted the class enough to share and that they were connecting their experiences with the subject material.
In the second class we discussed Healthy Relationships. In this class the students had to determine if example situations were healthy or unhealthy and why. My favorite part of this exercise is when the students determined that some were more of a gray area, which was not part of the exercise but showed that they were thinking critically. The students shared about their own relationships or their ideas of what they want in a relationship and we determined what ideal communication would look like in a healthy relationship.
The next day I went out on the town to eat breakfast by myself before going to the University. I looked a little fancy I guess since it was Yohanna’s birthday and we were going out right after the last class. So when I stopped at a little cafe, Cafe El Echape, and asked the proprietor what the Cafe’s address was, I think she thought I was a travel writer or something because she looked at me with hope in her eyes and began telling me the Cafe’s address, name, and her name. I really just wanted the address so I could let the taxi know where to get me, but then I suddenly felt like she was expecting me to give the Cafe a review or something. So here I am, telling you readers that I ate a typical breakfast, platanos, huevos estrellados, pan, y frijoles with horchata and it was excellent. That day Yohanna and I co-facilitated two courses on Signs of an Abusive Relationship. In the first class, since it was her birthday and the class was pretty small, I got cake for everyone. Lucia had brought happy birthday glasses and a candle, and some of the students bought soda for the class. Another special surprise was that Daniel Velasquez, veteran member of MIA, came by the class and I finally got to meet him! He was amazing and told all the class about himself and his work, and he participated with us in celebrating Yohanna’s birthday and going over the day’s coursework. The second class was the same material and that class also went really well. Then Yohanna and I went to Trova Jazz, a Trova bar in Zone 4 for her birthday.
The next day, Friday, I went to visit my friend, an amazing poet named Manuel Tzoc, at his work, Ronald Esteticas in Zone 1. We hung out at his work for awhile and then took a walk to make copies since I needed them for Saturday and he needed to make copies of his new poetry book. We stopped and had some pupusas and then I went home since it was almost dark. Though I told him I couldn’t go out that night since I’d be prepping all night for Saturday, when Jenny called me and also invited me out, I realized how badly I wanted to get out. So I stapled up all the new copies, prepared the schedule for the next day, showered and went out with Jenny to see the same band in the same bar as before, at Cien Puertas. Thereabouts, as Cien Puertas and Gran Hotel are neighbors so we always end up at both, we saw both Manu and Abner, which was nice.
On Saturday I got to see the Video Project class again. I am love with Saturdays. This day we discussed domestic violence, we filmed a scene for each video, we took photographs for our bios, and we did a brief editing workshop. After welcoming everyone back we did a brief icebreaker wherein we had to say what we called our gentials. Then, to remind the students that their videos are supposed to be revolutionary as in based on Latin American Revolutionary Film Theory, they got into their groups and discussed how their videos are revolutionary and then presented.
Afterwards we broke up into small groups of the students with their mentors and discussed 6 handouts based on domestic and sexual violence, how to be supportive, and crisis intervention. Later we presented more on Domestic Violence based on materials from the Long Beach WomenShelter and then the students did a test on DV created by a good friend of mine, Marea Perez.
After a short break the students broke up into their video groups and half of them filmed while the other half took photographs and vice versa.
To end, we did a short editing workshop and ended with something positive.
The mentors and I, mainly Emmi, filmed some of the events of the day and I made a short video of what we did.
That night there was a rock concert in the Park in front of the National Palace and I told both Jenny and my old friend Carlos Ibanez that I would meet up with them when I suddenly ran out of saldo (minutes on my phone)! I wasn’t able to call a taxi and finally, after a lot of time and thinking, I threw on a hoodie and walked the 6 or 7 blocks by myself, at night! I never in a million years thought I would do that, but I did it and it was completely fine. I won’t do it again of course, but I am proud of myself in a way for not letting my gender paralyze me completely. When I first got there I couldn’t find my friends and luckily after awhile met up with one of Manu’s friends Joel who I met the previous week and he let me stand with him so I wasn’t alone in the park. Finally I found everyone and we all rocked out and then went out dancing at El Gran Hotel. Carlos, Giovanni, Jenny, walked alone.
The next day I met up with Joel again in his music studio and he agreed to make original music for the student’s videos if they need it. How super exciting!
This weekend was crazy because we had the film project on Saturday and Sunday instead of just Saturday. Saturday was devoted to talking and learning about feminism, sex, sexuality, the body, body image, sexual pleasure, sexual boundaries, sexual health, sexual identity, and gender identity.
We began with an icebreaker wherein everyone in the class had to say one word about sex.
Then, because I promised them the first day that we would watch a movie clip and analyze it but the tiny computer I brought didn’t have a DVD slot, so we watched a short clip from Miss Congeniality and talked about it.
We then discussed the homework from last week which was selected portions from the article “The Male as a Risk Factor: Masculinity, Mental Health, and Reproductive Health” by Benno de Keijzer. This was exciting since some of the students were just bursting to talk about it and had clearly learned a lot.
Then, to transition to the next topic we did another icebreaker wherein everyone had to form a circle and mime an activity they like doing such as swim or dance.
The next topic was something I decided to create after the previous week’s comments. When we were teaching about Feminist Film Theory the class had a lot of misconceptions about feminism and were turned off by the word because they equated feminism with separatism. So we started with an exercise in which each student was handed either a myth or a fact about feminism and had to determine which it was and why. This was to show the diversity of opinions about what feminism is and to think through some of the uglier misconceptions. Afterward the class read a short essay I wrote defining feminism out loud and we spoke more about feminism and clarified vocabulary and history questions.
Then we did a private, silent activity called Yes, No, Maybe though we started with one out loud as an icebreaker. The idea is to read a detailed list of intimate and sexual acts and situations and determine if you would do them, not do them, or maybe do them. The one we read out loud was “My partner can touch me affectionately in public” and everyone had to answer. The class then worked on their personal Yes, No, Maybe lists in order to determine their personal sexual limits.
We then watched a video about bodily diversity and looked at photographs of different penises, breasts, and vulvas in order to understand that, as Planned Parenthood says, different is normal. Then we watched a video about how to safely and properly use a condom.
After that we broke up into small groups: 2 students to each mentor and spoke about a range of topics such as feminist sex education, menstruation, safe sex, sexual and gender identity and orientation, and sexual pleasure. We then reconvened into the larger group and shared what we spoke about.
The last activity was a short ally training in which I taught the students how to be an ally to the LGBTQ community.
We then ended the day by sharing something positive either about the day or in general.
That night my friend Emmi stayed the night since she lives very far and had to come back the next morning. Though we were exhausted, we planned the next day’s activities and then I took her out to eat in a fancy Mexican restaurant. Emmi works very hard both at home and at work and is still poor so I treated her to dinner and then when she mentioned she had never been out in Zone 1 I took her to two of the best bars there, Cien Puertas and El Gran Hotel, where we ended up dancing all night. She was super happy to be out of her house since her family doesn’t let her go out, and I was super happy to show her a good time.
The next day, Sunday, we had a long day. Instead of meeting from 1pm to 6pm we met from 10am to 6pm and since the University wasn’t open we met at MIA’s founder and director’s apartment/office in Zone 1. Though the day was longer we had less activities that took longer to do. We began with an icebreaker by Emmi, one of the mentors. She had the class write down five things they like about themselves and five things they would like to change and then present. She explained that the reasoning behind this was to recognize how we typically concentrate more on the negative than the positive in ourselves and also to practice praising ourselves since it is something we are not accustomed to do.
Then everyone cut up magazine they brought to make collages on their new notebooks that MIA donated to them.
After that the students and mentors presented on the three Latin American revolutionary film manifestos that they had read the night before: Imperfect Cinema from Cuba, Third Cinema from Argentina, and Cinema Novo from Brazil. When one of the students, Carolina, presented on Imperfect Cinema I literally cried because at sixteen years old she understood the article so well and the concept was so beautiful. (Imperfect Cinema basically says that cinema does not need to be professional and expensive and anyone who wants to make films as a tool for social change can do it.) We then watched a short clip of The Hour of the Furnaces (Getino, Solanas 1970) as an example of Third Cinema.
After that we brainstormed about how many films we wanted to make and on what subjects and the students decided to make two films, one about family violence and one about competition between women. Once the groups were formed I brought out the cameras and they opened them and practiced using them. Then we all walked down to 6th street which is kind of like Universal City Walk or Downtown Disney and in the two groups we ate lunch, talked more about the videos, and took more video footage. Unfortunately it started raining heavily and we hid out for awhile in Quiznos but finally had to go back because a few of the students had to leave at 4, so we all ran home in the rain.
Then we watched some of the footage the students took and talked about it and closed with something positive.
HTML for youtube video of footage taken by Michelle, one of the students:
Since this weekend was so full, I will start my next blog with Monday.
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MIA is a registered 501 (c) (3) non-profit corporation in the USA.
Proud Founder Member of the Guatemala Peace and Development Network