MIA’s Collaboration with Congresswoman Sandra Morán

Here at MIA, we’ve been investigating and providing information to help legislators who want to modify and reform Guatemala’s National Education Legislation to educate about and prevent school bullying and sexual abuse in schools throughout Guatemala.

Back in 2011 and 2013, the Government of Guatemala, along with the Ministry of Education and several international donors, published a Guía para la Identificación y Prevención del Acoso Escolar (Bullying) / Guide to Identifying and Preventing School Bullying, as well as a Protocolo de Identificación, Atención y Referencia de Casos de Violencia dentro del Sistema Educativo Nacional / Protocol for the Identification, Attention to, and Reference for Cases of Violence within the National Education System. You can get these documents here: http://www.mineduc.gob.gt/portal/contenido/anuncios/informes_gestion_mineduc/documents/guia_acoso_escolar_final.pdf and here, respectively: http://www.mineduc.gob.gt/portal/contenido/anuncios/informes_gestion_mineduc/documents/Protocolo_Educacion_2013.pdf

These documents are quite thorough and provide in-depth information on the topics. In fact, the Protocol breaks down different types of violence into separate categories, defining each one, explaining how to recognize them, and providing internal and external routes of reference for how to properly handle them. The types of violence identified are: mistreatment of minors and physical and psychological violence; sexual violence; violence on the basis of racism and discrimination; and bullying and sexual harassment.

It is remarkable and innovative that this information has been formally established – especially in Guatemala, where, although these types of violence are rampant, talking and learning about them are still taboo. In theory, these guides exist and should be incorporated in every public school. In practice, however, they are not properly implemented and used as dynamic tools by teachers, administrators, and school staff.

This is where MIA comes in. We are currently collaborating with Sandra Morán, a Congresswoman with Partido Convergencia. Together, we want to raise awareness and provide information that may be used to advance legislation that ensures that the Guide and Protocol are properly enforced in each school and classroom. It simply doesn’t do much good to have all the information officially printed and made available to the public, if the utilization of these tools is not enforced.

Sandra Morán is a really interesting and ground-breaking politician. She was elected in September 2015, amidst the corruption scandal that involved many in public office, and took office in early 2016. She is a staunch feminist in a machista country where being a feminist is radical and even dangerous. She is also openly gay, in a place where violence—and even murder—is perpetrated against homosexual and trans people. Sandra has said, “In Guatemala, to be a feminist is not welcomed, to be a lesbian, even less so. But the fact that I have always been transparent about who I am – a lesbian feminist – took away that weapon from those who use misogynist, sexist, and homophobic attacks as a political strategy.”

Sandra has long been an activist. She was born in 1960 (the year Guatemala’s internal armed conflict began) and from a young age, expressed her anti-military, anti-violence and repression sentiment, joining the Guerrilla Army of the Poor (Ejército Guerrillero de los Pobres, EGP), when she was a teenager. She then went into exile in the early 1980s, when the dictatorship and governmental brutality were most severe, and spent time in other Central American countries and Mexico, until the conflict was officially over with the signing of the Peace Accords. Upon her return, she became part of the Women’s Sector of the Assembly of Women for the Peace Accords, and later the coordinator of the Women’s Forum. Over the past 20 years, she has promoted and participated in different feminist and lesbian collectives, such as the women in exile collective Nuestra Voz (Our Voice); the lesbian collective Mujeres Somos (We Are Women); and the Colectivo de Mujeres Feministas de Izquierda (Feminist Leftist Women’s Collective).

Sandra has a strong agenda to make more visible LGBTQI rights and gender diversity and equality. As she has expressed, upon her election and with regarding her everyday fight: “Lesbian identity in Guatemala is taboo. It was necessary to show it, not only to break that taboo, but more so, it gave the opportunity for the LGBT community to have a representative. I knew that identity was going to be used against me. So I took from them the power they could have had to use it against me.”

She is pushing strongly to include school bullying against LGBTQI students in the Guide to Identifying and Preventing School Bullying, where the unique and persistent ways in which these students are harassed and bullied are specifically detailed. Using homosexual slurs such as hueco, maricón, marica, culero, among others, is extremely widespread against students of all ages, and it is time that this violence is addressed head-on.

At MIA, we are very excited to be working to provide information to Sandra Morán and her party to really make in-roads and lasting change within the Guatemalan education system on identifying and properly addressing violence and bullying in schools. Her energy and deep desire to create change are contagious, and she seems prepared and driven to confront and and all obstacles that would prevent advances towards gender equality and identity. Stay tuned to read more about our collaboration and achievements!

If you’d like to read more about Sandra Morán in the news, The Guardian has a great article: https://www.theguardian.com/global-development-professionals-network/2016/feb/11/guatemala-feminist-lesbian-sandra-moran. The Nobel Women’s Initiative conducted an interview with her: https://nobelwomensinitiative.org/meet-sandra-moran-guatemala/. And Guatemala-based Plaza Pública has an in-depth article in Spanish: https://www.plazapublica.com.gt/content/sandra-moran-una-feminista-en-el-congreso.

A Patriarchal Tragedy: Reflections on Hogar ‘Seguro’ Virgen de la Asunción

By A Volunteer

“In theory, the Guatemalan government has a clear line of work that consists of maintaining and regulating any aspect of social relations (labor, political, economic, social, familiar, and institutional) within its territorial confines. In practice, it is evident that it only cares about the protection of the dominant and most powerful, and this conservative and misogynistic way of thinking and acting justifies that abortion is a crime but that the aberrant deaths of dozens of scorched girls is the ‘responsibility of everyone.’”[1]


Several men lighting candles. Sign: “CORRUPTION is what killed the girls!”

My previous blog post discussed March 8th: International Women’s Day, the march in Guatemala City with photos, and my three years with MIA. Tragically, March 8th 2017 also marked a devastating fire that took place in a shelter called  Hogar Seguro (which ironically translates to Safe Home) for children and adolescents. At the time of writing, 40 adolescents have died, several severe burn victims have been transferred to hospitals in the United States for skin graft surgeries, several others remain in critical conditions in Guatemala, and many survivors are being relocated to other shelters throughout Guatemala. All of the victims are female. It is shocking and heartbreaking and incomprehensible.  The government officially declared a State of Mourning from March 8th-10th, countless investigations are being done to get to the bottom of this tragedy, and civil society organizations and individuals alike are gathering in Parque Central to hold memorials for the victims and demand justice and accountability from the State. It seems as though everyone in Guatemala is mourning and desperately angered by the negligence and abuse that took place in the shelter.

A very brief version of the series of events leading up to the fire is the following. On the evening of March 7th, a group of adolescent girls in shelter started an uprising, and sought the help of some adolescent boys. One of the reasons determined for the uprising is that the adolescent girls could no longer take the abuses and sexual violence perpetrated by the teachers, administrators, masons and guards who worked at Hogar Seguro. These are some accounts:

‘“You can’t leave this room until you give me oral sex,’ ordered teacher Edgar Ronaldo Diéguez Ispache to 12 and 13-year-old students, as they tried to leave the classroom in which they received 5th and 6th grade classes. Not one was able to leave nor avoid the sexual abuse.”[2]

                   “The same teacher ordered girl and boy students to walk around the classroom naked in front of their classmates. One of the masons, José Roberto Arias Pérez, raped a mentally disabled girl. An alleged worker, described in one of the 28 legally filed complaints to the Secretary of Social Welfare as Joseph, forced some of the girls to have sex with him as he took them out of and away from the shelter.”[3]

In the middle of the uprising, the staff, aware of what was happening, opened the doors and screamed, “If that’s what you want, then get the fuck out of here!”[4] The adolescents ran out of the shelter and hid in the surrounding forest. A little while later, once they were captured around 10 PM, the adolescent boys were beaten by the police, while the adolescent girls were manhandled. Afterward, they were separated: the boys were locked in the auditorium and the girls were locked in a part of the school. Between roughly 12 AM and 8 AM on March 8th, between 52 and 60 girls and adolescents were forced to stay locked in this area, unable to leave even to use the toilet. Dozens of police and guards were stationed outside the auditorium and the section of the school. Around 8 AM, some of the girls set fire to a mattress, which quickly spread to the other mattresses across the room. Once the fire started, the girls screamed for help and banged on the doors but the police wouldn’t open the doors.[5]

Some of the adolescent boys provided the following testimony:

“Around 8:30, we started to smell a burning stench, and I don’t even know how we opened the door of the auditorium, in order to go and help the girls because they were burning. But the police didn’t allow us to help them and they began to hit us. No one helped the girls, and we weren’t allowed to help them either.”[6]


“This body is mine… It won’t be burned! It won’t be raped! It won’t be murdered!” #ItWasTheState

There are many intersectional elements to this tragedy. First of all, the conditions of the shelter were abysmal.  Reports had already been filed over three months ago by the Human Rights Ombudsman, when it requested cautionary measures with the Inter American Commission on Human Rights. Moreover, UNICEF explained on repeated occasions to authorities and the media that an institution like Hogar Seguro was an unsafe environment for children and adolescents. It was designed to hold a total of 500 children but had approximately 800 at the time of the fire.[7]

Secondly, the children and adolescents in Hogar Seguro come from very precarious situation and poor backgrounds, whose families couldn’t care for them or who do not have parents or family members to care for them. Many suffered abuses at the hands of their guardians. In fact, according to the Secretary of Social Welfare, Hogar Seguro is an institution that “provides refuge and shelter to children and adolescents from 0 to 18 years of age, who are victims of physical, psychological, and sexual violence, who have disabilities, who are abandoned, who are homeless and living on the streets, who suffered from addiction problems, who are victims of human trafficking and sexual, commercial, labor, economic exploitation, or who are victims of illegal adoptions.”[8] Basically, children and adolescents were rescued from these horrible conditions and sent to Hogar Seguro to be protected and receive the care and attention they needed, under governmental mandate.


“Their voices have been silenced, but ours aren’t. Another act of femicide in the 21st century.”

Thirdly, the issue of gender: I already stated it above, but all of the victims of the fire were adolescent girls. Some had been raped by fathers, grandfathers, uncles. Some were pregnant as a result of this sexual violence. Once again, the girls were separated from the boys, locked in a room, and not permitted to leave even to go to the bathroom, even with dozens of police and guards at the door. They started the fire out of desperation. It was their last attempt at a desperate call for help, a call so that someone would take notice and help them and care for them. They were, after all, in a Safe Home and supposed to be receiving care. From the Guatemalan government. Tragically, that last call for help was never answered.

Finally, everyone is pointing fingers and no one wants to assume responsibility and accountability. Some authorities have been captured: Carlos Rodas, former Head of Secretary of Social Welfare; Sub-Secretary Anahí Keller; and Santos Torres, former director of Hogar Seguro. Up against accusations of State negligence, President Jimmy Morales and a number of members of Congress are trying to wipe their hands clean of any responsibility. The International Commission Against Impunity (CICIG) and the FBI are getting involved in the investigations. At the time of this writing, more and more testimonies and facts are emerging, and only time will tell us who are those accountable.


“Make your indignation convert itself into action! #IAmNotIndifferent”

There are many questions, much anger, and overwhelming grief. I find myself unable to not read articles from various news sources as soon as they are published. But what now? This tragedy happened, and the pain cannot be reversed, but we must ask ourselves: what concrete steps can we take to not be indifferent or ignorant? How can we disseminate information, educate, and make sure that this isn’t repeated in the future?

MIA’s preventive education work champions for gender equality by dismantling and analyzing root causes of violence against women and girls, and violence also against men and boys (from a gender perspective). The Canada-based White Ribbon Campaign (in Guatemala, Hombres Contra Feminicidio, or Men Against Feminicide) is an international campaign to involve men and boys to vow to not perpetrate violence against women and girls, and to educate their peers to do the same. Imagine if the fathers, grandfathers, and uncles of the girls in Hogar Seguro had received the MIA’s Diplomado course? What about the teachers, staff, masons, and guards and police?

Time, energy, resources, and care & compassion must be invested in Guatemalan girls, boys, and adolescents, now more than ever.


Crosses with flowers, candles and fake blood, at the memorial in the Central Plaza

[1] Orellana, Paula. “Misoginia: hogar inseguro e irresponsabilidad estatal.” CMI-Centro de Medios Independientes. 9 marzo 2017. https://cmiguate.org/misoginia-hogar-inseguro-e-irresponsabilidad-estatal/

[2] Woltke, Gabriel y Martín Rodríguez Pellecer. “Las razones del amotinamiento de las niñas del hogar.” Nómada. 9 marzo 2017.  https://nomada.gt/las-razones-del-amotinamiento-de-las-ninas-del-hogar-seguro/

[3] Ibid.

[4] Nómada. “Estos testimonios apuntan a un crimen de Estado.” Nómada. 13 marzo 2017. https://nomada.gt/estos-testimonios-apuntan-a-un-crimen-de-estado/

[5] Nómada. “Estos testimonios apuntan a un crimen de Estado.” Nómada. 13 marzo 2017. https://nomada.gt/estos-testimonios-apuntan-a-un-crimen-de-estado/

[6] Ibid.

[7] Muñoz, Geldi y Jessiva Gramajo. “Unicef y PDH denunciaron la situación del Hogar Seguro.” PrensaLibre. 9 Marzo 2017.  http://www.prensalibre.com/guatemala/comunitario/unicef-y-pdh-denunciaron-la-situacion-del-hogar-seguro-virgen-de-la-asuncion

[8] Orellana, Paula. “Misoginia: hogar inseguro e irresponsabilidad estatal.” CMI-Centro de Medios Independientes. 9 marzo 2017. https://cmiguate.org/misoginia-hogar-inseguro-e-irresponsabilidad-estatal/

Recognition of and Recommitment to International Solidarity for Women in the Age of Trump

By T Engel

I’m a self-defined activist. I participate in marches and demonstrations in my country of residence, Guatemala, and in my country of birth, the USA. I deeply believe that public activism is necessary and important, that it instigates social change, and that it inspires peace, unity and solidarity.

So, when the Women’s Marches blossomed all over the internet in the days leading up to and after the inauguration of Trump, I voraciously scoured the news for articles and pictures covering protests all over the world, from my home in Guatemala City.  They filled me with so much pride and joy that I was brought to tears on multiple occasions, especially when I saw the people I love actively engaging in the type of work I love.  

But they have also stimulated anxiety within me. So what now…?! seems to be the persistent question I ask both publicly and privately, and it is a question that fills me with dread. There is all this opposition, all this resistance, all this fear, all these calls to action, all this presencia and solidaridad, but what will it actually achieve? The future is more uncertain than we have seen it in years, and confronting that reality can be paralyzing.

One thing that feels concrete and solution-based is the work that I am engaging in with MIA, Mujeres Iniciando en las Américas. March 8th (International Women’s Day; how fitting!), 2017, marks my 3-year anniversary as a volunteer with the organization, and I began as Project Coordinator just a month ago.

It may sound like hyperbole, but MIA’s work changes lives. Its preventive-education based structure has durable, lasting results. Its didactic material facilitates dialogue about sensitive topics that are still taboo in Guatemalan society, such as sexual harrassment, sexual assault, domestic violence, gender identity and sexual diversity, and child sexual abuse. MIA’s courses open safe, confidential spaces where participants of all ages can and have expressed incidents of abuse at home, in the workplace, at school, on the bus, and on the street. Some of these students share that they’d never before spoken openly about this personal information — that they’d felt silenced, powerless, and voiceless. MIA gives a voice to the voiceless.  MIA has deeply affected thousands of Guatemalan men, women, boys and girls, and its education is empowering.

Just to give you a sample of the day-to-day work that is currently being done: we are preparing the Hombres Contra Feminicidio diploma course which will take place at the San Carlos National University at the end of February; we are meeting and collaborating with the National Men’s Network of Guatemala; we are carrying out workshops at an all-girls elementary school; we are writing project proposals for funding; we are participating in local forums and events. We are constantly busy and working to improve, and yet there is still so much to be done.

And thus the challenge I have forced myself to engage in is to channel my fear and apprehension and uncertainty about the politics of the US (and by default, the world) into tangible solutions and achievements through MIA’s programming. Every morning, and anytime I open The New York Times/Atlantic/Guardian/Al Jazeera/PrensaLibre/Nomada/etc., and read about the latest executive order, Cabinet appointment, statistic on femicide, or number of Guatemalan GIRLS (aged 9-15) who became pregnant in 2016, my commitment to MIA is reaffirmed.

Of the dozens of articles I pored over in the aftermath of Election Day, one by Lindy West, entitled “Her Loss” particularly resonated with me. West, expressing her acute feelings of grief over not only the results but the insufferable nature of both campaigns and Hillary Clinton’s tireless battle just because of her sex writes, “We, as a culture, do not take women seriously on a profound level. We do not believe women. We do not trust women. We do not like women.” This is, of course, a universally-held concept, but in my personal comparison of the conditions for US women to Guatemalan women, there is no comparison; Guatemala easily trails the US by 75+ years.

At the end of West’s article, she defines the battle cry that I so desperately needed to hear, ponder, and believe in, post-election. “We [women] have been weathering this hurricane wall of doubt and violence for so long, and now, more crystalline than ever, we have an enemy and a mandate. We have the smirking apotheosis of our oppression sliming, paw-first, toward our genitals. We have the popular vote. We have proof, in exit polls, that white women will pawn their humanity for the safety of white supremacy. We have abortion pills to stockpile and neighbors to protect and children to teach.”1

Children to teach. Children to teach. Yes, I said to myself, we need this kind of education so badly. But it would be harmful and self-sabotage if we were to focus on educating just the children. We need to educate the girls, the boys, the women, and the men. The men. The men. The men.

So, when I feel inundated by horrible news from my country and its leaders, and the horrible news from Guatemala and its leaders, when I think that women’s rights and human rights couldn’t possibly become rolled-back any more, I seek resilience and protection in knowing that MIA’s education work in Guatemala affects not only Guatemalan women, but women the world over.

1 West, Lindy. “Her Loss.” The New York Times. 9 November 2016. https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/projects/cp/opinion/election-night-2016/her-loss

MIA and HCF campaign reach Xela

Vía revista www.entremundos.org

Hombres Contra Feminicidio

Todas las semanas leemos noticias en los periódicos de Guatemala acerca de mujeres que son asesinadas, sus cuerpos son encontrados desnudos en botaderos, a oriallas de ríos y en las aceras, con marcas visibles de tortura y violación sexual. Menos de 2% de estos crimenes son investigados y llevados a los tribunales de justicia, lo que constantemente nos deja con la duda que quienes cometen estos crimenes.

Hay dos cosas que si sabemos: que los mayoría son perpetrados por hombres, y que estos tienen mucho odío contra las mujeres. La frecuencia con que estas mujeres son asesinadas con crueldad y violadas, ha llevado al uso del termino “feminicido” para identificar este fenómeno. También es cierto que los hombres también están siendo asesinados con una frecuencia de más de 10 veces mayor que las mujeres.

La gran mayoría de asesinatos de hombres se llevan a cabo al estilo de pandillas: una o dos balas en la cabeza o un cuchillo al corazón. Estos crimenes se le atribuyen al contrabando, en su mayoría extorsiones o trafico de drogas, mientras que los crimenes contra las mujeres parece que son motivados por el odio.

“Feminicidio” tiene dos partes. Una es el patrón de crimenes violentos contra las mujeres, asesinatos, violaciones sexuales y abuso. La otra parte es el rol del gobierno y sus instituciones; la falta de leyes o la falta se aplicación de las leyes que permite que la violencia continue. En Guatemala, hay leyes que prohibenel asesinato y violación. El Congreso de la República pasó la Ley Contra Feminicidio en el 2008, pero el sistema de justicia no ha sido efectivo en investigar y perseguir los crimenes. Además, la policía es constantemente criticada por la falta de sensibilidad a la hora de intervenir en estos crimenes.

Cuando a una mujer se le pregunta “¿qué hacía afuera tan tarde?” o “¿a caso no sabía que la forma en que se viste hace a los hombres pensar que está disponible sexualmente?” esto hace que la victima piense que es su propia culpa el que el crimen haya sido cometido.

El feminicidio es constantemente presentado como un “problema de las mujeres.” Ciertamente afecta profundamente a las mujeres pero para poder eliminar el problema, necesitamos entender y reparar sus raíces, que no incluyen el estar hasta tarde en la calle o vestirse provocador. La raíz del problema esta en las personas que cometen los crimenes: los hombres. La gran mayoría de articulos sobre derechos de la mujer son escritos por mujeres. Mi maravillosa esposa me introdujo al trabajo escrito por un hombre: La Paradoja del Macho, por Jackson Katz y que lleva como subtitulo la frase: “Por qué algunos hombres hieren a las mujeres y como todos los hombres pueden ayudar.” Katz hace la observación que los crimenes contra las mujeres no son solo un problema de ellas, sino que todos los hombres tienen que actuar para terminar de una vez por todas con ese ciclo de violencia contra las mujeres.

Existe en nuestra sociedad una cultura de desprecio contra las mujeres que crea un ambiente de odio que es tolerado y que hace que la violencia contra las mujeres sea visto como algo normal. El hombre promedio, cuando se le explica que tiene una responsabilidad de terminar con la violencia contra la mujer a través de sus propias acciones dice algo así como: “está bien, no voy a cometer actos de violencia sexual contra las mujeres.” Pero nuestras acciones individuales tienen que ir más allá de lo anterior descrito. Todos tenemos el deber de cambiar la cultura que ve la existencia de la mujer solamente para nuestro propio placer.

Cuando escuchamos a los hombres hablar sobre las mujere sn forma despectiva, tenemos que desafiar esas opiniones y questionar lo que están tratando de decir como al preguntar “¿cómo se sentirían si escucharas a alguien decir lo mismo acerca de tu novia, mamá o hermana?” En Canadá, en 1989, un hombre llega a un salón de clase y, con una pistola en mano, pone de pie a los hombres y mujeres en lados opuestos del salón y procede a dispararle a las mujeres. Este acto de odio contra las mujeres fue el inicio de un movimiento, uno de hombres que tienen el coraje para ponerse al frente y apoyar a las mujeres y sus derechos  y activamente oponerse al odio contra ellas.Este movimiento ahora está representado e 58 paises, y es llamado “Campaña de Listón Blanco.”

La organización M.I.A., Mujeres Iniciando en las Américas, ha traído esta campaña a Guatemala bajo el nombre de “Hombres Contra Feminicidio.” MIA esta presentando talleres educativos de Hombres Contra Feminicido en esculas de primaria, secundaria, la USAC y la Academia de la Policia Nacional Civil. Estos talleres tienen una duracion de una a dos horas por 10 semanas y brindan a los participantes, hombres y mujeres, de la oportunidad de examinar sus creencias y actitudes sobre sexualidad y roles de género. Por ejemplo, un ejercicio titulado “Los hombres deberían… Las mujeres deberían…” comienza por definir, de parte de los participanes, las expectativas en nuestra sociedad para los hombres y las mujeres.

Estas expectativas se escriben en la pizarra. Los participantes conversan sobre lo que sucede cuando las mujeres no cumplen con éstas, que tipo de etiqueta usamos para describir a las mujeres que hacen cosas que “no se esperan de una mujer.” La misma pregunta se hace respecto a los hombres: los juzgamos, les insultamos si no cumplen con las expectativas? Como tratamos a las personas que no cumplen con las normas? El curriculo que MIA utiliza fue desarrollado por la Campaña de Listón Blanco y traducido al español por MIA. Cuando las personas examinan con honestidad sus actitudes y creencias sobre la sexualidad y roles de género, cambios profundos ocurren en el participante.

Cuando hablamos sobre las actitudes y creencias que tenemos sobre los roles de las mujeres y hombres en nuestra sociedad, las profundas inequidades en las expectativas se revelan. Guatemala tiene una historia terrible de violencia de género e impunidad que viene desde la época de la colonia, de acuerdoo a Catherine Komisaruk in “Relatos de Violación, la Violación Calla: Violencia Sexual y Testimonios Judiciales en Guatemala Colonial.” En la ley colonial, la violación sexual no era un crimen, excepto cuando el acto sexual era forzado en “virgenes, monjas oo viudas que viven decentemente.” Con el tiempo la ley estableció por decreto real eliminar la distinción arriba mencionada de sexo forzado y bajo consentimiento.

Durante la colonia, si un hombre era juzgado por sexo forzado, el crimen era el tomar virginadad de la mujer (o en su mayoría, niñas). La violencia y el consentimiento de la mujer no eran importantes en la ley colonial, lo que nos dice que la impunidad que vemos hoy en día en Guatemala ya se había previsto durante la colonia. Algo más reciente, durante los 36 años de guerra civil, la violación sexual fué usada como una herramienta de castigo, para atemorizar y desmoralizar a la población. Durante este tiempo, muchos guatemaltecos fueron expuestos a of fueron victimas de, violaciones sexuales u otros actos violentos. Los efectos por estar expuesto a violencia extrema, ya sea como testigo, victima o perpetrador, son reconocidos causas de daño psicológico a largo plazo. Estudios sobre este tipo de daño psicológico, incluyendo “trastorno por estrés postraumático,” demuestra que tales efectos pueden ser pesadillas, noches de insomnio y analepsis.

Personas expuestas a eventos extremos pueden mostrar impulses violentos por muchos años tras el evento. Los Acuerdos de Paz de 1996 con los que se terminó la guerra civil prometen la construcción de una nación próspera donde las mujeres tienen igualdad de derechos y vos en nuestra sociedad. Estas promesas aun están muy lejos de que se cumplan. Las deficiencies en la ley y el sistema de justicia que aplica estas leyes son mencionadas anteriormente. Pero para poder crear igualdad de oportunidades y derechos para las mujeres se requiere mas que leyes y su aplicación. Esto requiere de la construcción de un movimiento para cambiarlas actitudes enraizadas de desigualdad de los sexos. Para ser más específico, los Acuerdos de Paz dicen: “El Gobierno toma en cuenta la situación económica y social de la mujer como parte de las estrategias de desarrollo, programas y planes y para entrenamiento de personal civil como parte de tratar este asunto.” (Acuerdo Socioeconómico, 1.B.13)

MIA ha comenzado un movimiento con los talleres que cambia el pensar y actuar de sus participantes para así alcanzar una justicia e igualdad social para las mujeres, tal y como se describe en los Acuerdos de Paz. Pero esto talleres solo pueden llegar a un limitado número de personas cuando son impartidos por una pequeña ONG como MIA. Hasta este momento, las intervensionas más exitosas con hombres y niños han sido por intervension de una ONG, limitando la duración y teniendo una cobertura de alrededor de mil personas. Lo que se necesita para poder alcanzar los objetivos de los Acuerdos de Paz es integrar estos talleres, campañas y otras actividades similares a las actividades sociales de largo alcance como las escuelas públicas y el mundo de los deportes. Esto es lo que se necesita verdaderamente para cambiar la desigualdad de género.

A pesar que muchos hombres creen en que las mujeres deben tener igualdad de derechos y voz en asuntos sociales,  el involucramiento por parte de ellos para promover los cambios aun no esta ahí. Nosotros, los hombres, tenemos herramientas para ayudar a regar la voz por medio de la escritura de editoriales como éste o escribiendo cartas a los editores de periódicos locales.  Como hombre que es parte de este movimiento que crece, hombres con poder como en los deportes, actores, politicos y músicos que respaldan esta causa podemos mover a las masas via conferencias de prensa y eventos especiales de concientización que cuenten con la cobertura de los medios. Estos hombres pueden usar su carisma y credibilidad para abogar en favor del trabajo que se necesita por parte de los hombres y niños para tener una sociedad con más igualdad de género.

En los EE.UU hubo un estigma muy grande contra el VIH/SIDA, hasta que la estrella de baloncesto, Magic Johnson, anunció publicamente que tenia la enfermedad. Desde ese entonces, el estigma contra la enfermedad ha disminuído considerablemente. A los hombres que apoyan el movimiento en pro de los derechos de las mujeres constantemente se les señala de ser homosexuales porque se “cree” que se es menos hombre si se apoya el movimiento de mujeres. Hay un estigma social contra los hombres que apoyan los derechos de las mujeres. Para que este estigma comienze a desaparecer, se requiere del apoyo público de unos cuantos hombres reconocidos a los cuales su masculinidad no se le cuestione.

La estructura del estigma contra  los hombres que apoyan los derechos de las mujeres comenzará a desaparecer rapidamente ya que no tendrá base en la realidad. Nosotros hemos estado trabajando para hacer los contactos necesarios e introducir este curriculo en el pensum de estudios del sistema educativo nacional, llevar los talleres a los centros que educan al población que llevará a cabo los ideales de los Acuerdos de Paz. Por el momento no hemos tenido suerte con los contactos. Nos encontramos en constante busqueda de acercamientos con personal de alto rango dentro del Gobierno y el Ministerio de Educación y presentarles nuestro trabajo y sus resultados exitosos.

Nosotros también trabajamos para conseguir fondos económicos para nuestra ONG. Existen muchas organizaciones que dan dinero a programas que directamente benefician a las mujeres. Una de las dificultades que encontramos es la de convencer a las personas que nuestro programa beneficia directamente a las mujeres. Estas ONGs y sus programas orientados a las mujeres no muestran interés porque el nuestro se enfoca en educar al hombre y al niño. Muchas fundaciones que apoyan a las ONGs solo lo hacen si los programas benefician a mujeres y niñas y su potencial de “liderazgo.” La Campaña Hombres Contra Feminicidio se alinea con esto: al encuadrar el feminicidio como un problema que también es del hombre y al atacar las causas desde su raíz con educación, al final de cuentas beneficia a las mujeres y niñas y su potencial como líderes. La IMPRESIÓN que puede dejar la lectura sobre nuestro programa es que es para beneficiar primeramente a los hombres y niños.

La REALIDAD  es que nos beneficia a todos. Este es un problema grande cuando visto desde el pensamiento feminista; muchas veces el lenguaje utilizado en las campañas parece ser orientado a las mujeres, sin reconocer que lo que hace a las mujeres fuertes también aplica para los hombres. De acuerdo a los Acuerdos de Paz, “la participación activa de las mujeres es escencial para el desarrollo económico y social de Guatemala, y el Estado tiene la obligación de promover la eliminación de todas las formas de discriminación contra las mujeres.” (Acuerdo Socioeconómico, 1.B.11) Creemos que esa tarea no es solo del Estado, sino de todas y cada una de las personas.

Transmisión radial del Encuentro Mesoamericano de Estudios de Género y Feminismo

Esta es la información sobre la transmisión radial del Encuentro Mesoamericano de Estudios de Género y Feminismo que se llevara a cabo en Guatemala esta semana.

Estaran participando nuestras compañeras Ana Silvia Monzón, Walda Barrios, y también habra una ponencia de MIA. Apoyemos y eduquemonos juntos.

La cobertura en vivo al II Mesoamericano podrá seguirla los días 4, 5 y 6 de mayo, desde las 8.30 a.m. por medio de:

el sitio de Radio Internacional Feminista -FIRE o desde la web de Radio Internacional Feminista www.radiofeminista.net


También existen esposas agresoras

Solo en el 2010 el sistema judicial conoció 57 mil denuncias de violencia intrafamiliar, en los cuales la gran mayoría de víctimas son mujeres y niños, que son los casos más difundidos; sin embargo, también se reportaron cuatro mil 891 hechos en los cuales el agredido fue el esposo.


Debido a los estereotipos machistas, los hombres no se atreven a hacer pública su situación, y si lo hacen es porque se ha llegado a extremos insoportables.

De hecho, el hombre y la mujer violentados tienen en común esconder los golpes, laceraciones y, en fin, su congoja. Resisten gritos, insultos y amenazas, sin atreverse a denunciar.

“Hemos visto casos extremos donde el hombre le tiene hasta miedo a la mujer, porque es tan violenta que incluso sabe manejar armas”, refiere José Posadas, psicólogo del Juzgado Primero de Familia.

Pocos denuncian

“Pocos hombres víctimas de violencia se animan a denunciarlo, por el machismo en el que se vive”, explica una jueza de Familia que pidió el anonimato.

Debido a la baja percepción de este problema, los hombres agredidos tampoco tienen muchas opciones para solicitar ayuda.

Elvira Samayoa, del Programa de Prevención y Erradicación de la Violencia Intrafamiliar (Propevi), uno de los pocos que atienden este tipo de casos, comenta que en la entidad funcionan al menos 15 grupos de autoayuda para hombres agredidos.

Casos extremos

Una de las historias más extremas que ha conocido Samayoa es la de un hombre que pidió ayuda porque su esposa lo golpeaba en forma salvaje. “Ella era sordomuda, pero sus gritos eran tan fuertes que los vecinos creían que él la golpeaba, hasta que una vez se dieron cuenta de que era la señora quien golpeaba al señor, con lo que tuviera en la mano”, cuenta Samayoa.

Fue necesario un intérprete para comunicarse con ella, y fue así como se confirmó que era la agresora

Las golpizas fueron el extremo de una serie de manipulaciones que empezaron con órdenes pequeñas como hacer que él cocinara o ayudara con las tareas de los niños, lo que después se convirtió en obligación.

Cuando él ya no hacía las actividades como a la esposa le gustaba, dejó de darle de comer, y después comenzó el proceso de la agresión física.

Otro caso es el de un hombre que se casó con una salvadoreña que había sido trabajadora del sexo. Él trató de darle todas las comodidades que le permitía su sueldo, pero para ella no fue suficiente y empezó a exigir más.

Cuando ya no fue posible que él accediera a sus peticiones, la esposa lo denunció en falso ante un juez de Paz, por violencia.

La mujer logró obtener la custodia de sus hijos y les prohibió que vieran a su padre, de quien se burlaba e insultaba cada vez que podía.

También se reporta que algunas esposas acosan a sus maridos y los vigilan de manera obsesiva, por celos, lo que ha motivado a algunos de ellos a denunciar la situación en el Propevi.

Samayoa refiere el caso de una esposa tan celosa que el hombre prefirió irse de la casa. En su desesperación, ella se golpeó para denunciarlo, y cuando ya no logró que regresara, pidió medidas para impedirle al esposo que pudiera ver a sus hijos.

Las grandes víctimas

En todo caso de violencia intrafamiliar, sea él o ella la víctima, quienes más sufren son los hijos, pues afrontan el dolor de ver sufrir a un ser amado. Además, la autoestima, los valores y patrones de crianza se distorsionan.

Lo peor del caso es que las cifras son altas. Propevi conoció entre el 1 de enero y el 31 de marzo últimos, 783 casos en donde los hombres eran los denunciantes, aunque las quejas de mujeres se quintuplican.

Si una persona necesita ayuda puede marcar el número telefónico 1515 para mayor orientación.


Student activists

At the risk of sounding repetitive, I’d just like to start with: what a week!

On Monday, Lucia went down to the U.S. embassy to promote the right to vote outside the country for presidential and congressional elections, as well as to explain to the social movement here the various initiatives undertaken in the United States to support the request of TPS for Guatemalans in the United States presented by the Guatemalan Government last June.

You can read more about it in Spanish at La Hora’s website: http://www.lahora.com.gt/notas.php?key=83369&fch=2011-03-25.

This is where MIA wears two hats: working with our own mission and also as a part of the Red para la Paz y el Desarrollo para Guatemala.


We had a pretty successful day at the all-boys’ school in Zone 8. The boys are enamored with our facilitator, Manolo. Already the boys “aww” when we leave. There’s always “discipline” issues, but usually we can channel all their vivacious energy into our activities. (No small feat this, with classes of about 40 ten-year-olds.)

USAC classes on Thursday were fun times. We assigned a reading on the role of women in the history of the Maya-Quiché, based on their presence in the Popol Vuh, which generated a lot of interest and discussion. The students had a lot to say about how societies develop their social norms and where these norms might come from. During the course of the workshop we talked about people who influence us, and in our responses we got everything from Daddy Yankee to Álvaro Colóm (el señor presidente) to our mothers and fathers, and even our kids.

The students’ homework for this week is to get together their midterm project: an interview with a person who influences them in a positive way and an oral presentation about this person. I am really, really excited to hear more about the students’ backgrounds and learn about the people who have made them who they are. I think one of the students is even going to talk about Lucía as her “persona influyente”!


On Friday, Carlos and I headed over to el INCA (Instituto Normal de Centro América), the all-girls’ school where Angie studied (see my previous post for more on Angie’s story) and where we give our workshops on Fridays. We were feeling some pretty mixed emotions because this was going to be the first time we would see the girls since the death of their friend and our former student.

I’m not sure what exactly we expected to hear from the students, but what we saw was nothing like what I had expected.

When we turned the corner to go towards the school’s main entrance, three girls standing in the sidewalk said hi and explained to us that the students’ association was occupying the building and had cancelled classes for the day. They took us to one of the girls guarding the entrance and the girls there (students of 6to magisterio, 15-year-olds) explained to us and to some parents who had gathered around that there was nothing to worry about. Everyone in the building was safe and no one was being held against their will. All students would be let out at the normal end of the school day at 12:30.

When we asked if they could tell us more about what was going on, they explained that (and this paragraph is all more or less translation and paraphrasing) after Angie’s death, when the students of the three highest grades decided to march in protest to the Palacio Nacional, where Ban-Ki Moon was visiting with the president, their principal forbade them to leave school grounds. But the girls wanted justice and wanted to make their voices heard and so they left, with 16 teachers (none of whom had pressured the girls to leave). The principal was ticked off and has since declared that 4 of those 16 teachers are essentially eligible to be fired (even under Guatemala’s employee protection laws) for “abandonment of their posts”. The students are outraged by this abuse of power and have taken possession of their school in a non-violent way to speak out against the principal’s actions and in fact, ask for her to be replaced instead of the teachers.

They let us in to see the girls’ and as far as I could tell, there was no one being held against their will. The girls were letting the younger kids go about their classes and recess as usual on their side of the building (their was even a sound system to play music for the kids during their recess). The other side of the building, where the older students have class was basically a scene from last year’s student power protests but with younger actors. The girls were sitting on the floor anywhere they could find shade, and a bunch of them had gathered in the central courtyard under the (scorching!) sun to listen to girls from 6to explain their demands and join them in chants of “El INCA unido jamás sera vencido!” And “ Qué queremos?” “Justicia!” And “Voz y voto”, because those are the two things that in the current system, our girls just don’t have.




Check it out for yourself:



Angélica Aimé Martínez Vivar

This week, 16 year-old Angélica Aimé Martínez Vivar, who participated in MIA’s workshops at INCA (all-girls’ school in zone 1) last year, was killed on her bus home from school by a stray bullet. Angie’s death marks the second time in the last two years that MIA has lost a young family member to senseless violence.

A “bala perdida” is a bullet that misses its intended mark but finds another. These are the two scariest words I have ever heard in any language. It is the epitome of senseless, random violence. There is no precaution against pure chance. Angie wasn’t engaging in any “high-risk behaviors” when she was killed: she was caught in cross-fire on a bus going home from school.

But honestly, this is the reality in Guate right now. Living in the city means living under a shroud of fear and distrust. You step out on the street and everyone you see is a potential mugger/assaulter/rapist/murderer. You must always be on guard, evaluate everyone you see, keep track of places to duck into if everything goes wrong. Going for a walk around the block can be exhausting.

It might be the legacy of thirty years of civil war, it might be the result of a market flooded with small arms, it might be due to the government’s inaction over the past few decades. But it’s hard to care about why and how we got here when a 16-year old dies and we cannot hold a single person accountable. If justice exists in cases like this it will not come through the trial of one individual.

We must prosecute the entire society, the structural violence and lack of opportunities that led three men to board a bus with arms and demand money from the passengers. We must prosecute the culture of fear that led one man to carry a firearm for personal defense. We must prosecute the culture of individualism and machismo that made him defend himself by opening fire.

I know all this sounds like rhetoric with no practical application. But in a way, this is what MIA does. From our own humble place we are fighting all these things and struggling each and every day to change them, one person at a time.

And for what it’s worth, I am proud of our girls at INCA. When they heard about this senseless act of violence they did not just go home and cry like generations of women were taught to. They marched out onto the streets, protesting against all those ineffable evils that force them to stay inside. They went out and they screamed, not with fear or anguish, but with anger, with outrage at the mindless violence that surrounds them. They marched to the Palacio Nacional, the seat of the Guatemalan executive on a day when Ban-ki Moon himself was in attendance to make themselves heard.

I can’t know if MIA being in this school played a part in these girls’ ability to find their voices, but I’d like to think that our workshops, where many of these girls get to talk about what it means to be a woman with a voice and how to channel this voice to make Guatelinda a little more linda plays a part in the confidence, courage, and valor it took for them to do this.

We’ll be back in INCA next week with these girls, and until then, kudos to these bright young girls, with them at the helm, we can all have high hopes for the future of this city.


Photo from El Periodico: http://www.elperiodico.com.gt/es/20110317/pais/192570/


Getting ready for USAC – UPDATE

So I missed opening day, but Carlos, Manolo, and Lucia, who facilitated the first three workshops de-briefed me and the classes were a resounding success. And by resounding success I mean applause, standing ovations! Around 50 students all told, and all excited to continue learning about gender roles and violence in Guatemala!

This is incredible! We are getting college students who are hungry to learn more about our work and to get involved with the lucha! Even before class started, Lucia was bombarded with e-mails asking for readings and information to get started. These young people are ready and excited to learn more, and MIA is here to guide them. We have started a journey that is going to be transformative for our students and hopefully for us facilitators too. A very exciting time for MIA!!


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.