Well, that has changed for me being in Guatemala. Last year, I didn't have the opportunity to really do anything because I was in training and was on a tight schedule and, someone would even say, a tight leash. Yet this year I was in my community where I have worked now for a year and have specifically worked with women. About a week before Women's Day I visited the Municipal Office for Women (OMM) in town to see what they were planning for the day and if I could assist in any way. Of course, they were just starting to plan and figure out what they wanted to do in a week's time. TIG. But we discussed the idea of having a march through town the morning of with the indigenous women from all the different villages and hosting a fun activity afterwards with lunch being provided as the concluding event.
So on March 8th, I put on some purple and gathered with a bunch of women from my community to do about a 45 minute march through my town. (No, my town's center is not that big we just walked really slow.) Many of the women had made different posters they held up through the march about women's equality, women's rights, gender-based violence, women's education, etc. It was such a great and joyous event for me to be able to participate with this group of women that are still faced with so many injustices in this country and who were marching so proudly to represent themselves. I also enjoyed seeing the faces of male on-lookers being faced with a large group of women that not only respect and value themselves but are expecting it from others as well. Machismo is still a large part of the indigenous culture in Guatemala (and non-indigenous at times) and so seeing indigenous women be proactive about their role in society was really inspirational for me.
After the march, we headed to an area outside in front of the municipality building where a stage was set up. The OMM and Comisión de Mujer organized a line of activities for the women to enjoy themselves, such as dance contests, tongue twisters, raffles, and a contest to pick the best posters that were made by the women. I had the honor of being one of the judges for the posters' judging and presenting the winners. There also were some guest speakers that addressed the women about a variety of different issues revolving around women. One speaker in particular was a Peruvian women's rights activist that recently started working for an NGO in the area regarding women's rights. Since all of the women's first language that were participating was Q'eqchi' and not Spanish, she insisted in a translator so that they could be addressed in their mother tongue. This woman was the definition of empowerment and spoke true to the reality of a lot of these women. She dared them to stand up for their rights and equality and to demand respect from all. She even got all these lovely little Q'eqchi' ladies to raise the fists in the air and yell "Viva!" which for Q'eqchi' women who are usually shy and don't tend to speak loudly in crowds, was pretty awesome and I wish I could have captured the moment on my camera to share.
The lunch that was held afterwards was fun with the local marimba band playing live in the background. After everyone was done eating, some women got up and grabbed a partner and started dancing with each other. It was all smiles and fun, and it was really just such a pleasure to be able to share this day with these women and see them for a day enjoy themselves, forget their worries and problems, and celebrate their existence, their love for themselves, and their mere existence.
Working for a year in the Peace Corps out here in Guatemala has helped me discover a new passion I have for women everywhere and their right to health, to an education, and to an equal opportunity. There can be so much inequality for women here in Guatemala and it breaks my heart when I do see it or hear about it. It is exciting, though, when you see women gather like they did on this day and celebrate themselves and speak about their will to never give up.
A few days later, I went to the community of my women's group for our last meeting together and despedida (goodbye). Since Women's Day had just passed I decided to do our last workshop on self-esteem and its importance for women. We did an activity in which we first went around the circle and each talked about something that made us sad or our heart heavy. We then went around and each said a blessing we have in our lives. The activity turned out differently than I expected. First of all, the women could not think of something that made them sad and they just giggled like little schoolgirls when it was their turn. They would answer, "Seño, I'm happy all the time." Or, "I don't get sad." Which, obviously, is not true. I was so confused by this. I even gave an example saying, "I feel sad when I see little children sick." Nope. A couple said I feel sad when my child is sick but that's it. Maybe it's a way for them to stay strong, to try to block out the things that upsets them. Perhaps they thought it was just a weird question to ask. I don't really know the answer but I do know that when it was time to say a blessing the giggles resided and a more serious tone was taken. They each talked about how God gives them many blessings and gave various examples. Their faith was so evident and strongly relayed. "God gives me the blessing of always having my tortillas and my food on my plate," was one of my favorites because no matter what they always have their tortillas! Although I already knew it, it became so clear to me how much God plays a role in helping them get through their struggles. I think the activity ended up having more of an impact on me than on them, ha!
|Myself with the President (right) and Secretary (left) of my women's group|
At the end of our workshop I had brought a cake to share with them and give them my thanks for welcoming me into their community. They also shared their words of gratitude and appreciation with me and, all in all, it was a good final meeting. Although, I definitely felt a pang of sadness saying goodbye and hugging some of these women knowing that I might never see some of them again. But, weirdly enough, I didn't feel as overwhelmingly sad as I thought I was going to. Instead I largely felt a wave of gratitude and appreciation for having the opportunity and honor to have gotten to know these women, to have exchanged dialogue with them, and to experience and learn about their culture and way of living. I don't think I will ever forget them for I learned as much from them as they did from me.
|Women's group I got to work with from Monjas Panimaquito|