Heavy rain hit the city and everything has slowed down. People want to stay home and wait out the rain, children do not go to school and adults relax with the feeling of low energy, but the rain has not stopped us.
Monday morning, Claudia Hernandez, a Guatemalan who works at a program that supports victims of sexual violence, came to explain the status of women’s rights in Guatemala. She taught us how the discussion of violence against women and human trafficking is a fairly recent discussion in Guatemala. Her work involves getting women out of violence and placing them in a program that will help them better their lives. Though there is still enormous corruption in the government and oppression against women, Guatemala is starting to develop laws that can end the injustices that many women face everyday and working towards a better future.
Later in the day we went on a tour of a Women’s Co-op called UPAVIM. We were told how the Co-Op is a way to provide work for women and provide services to the community. One of the services is a daycare. The children in the daycare were adorable, they barely ate their beans and rice because they were distracted by all the gringas around them.
One of the surprising things about UPAVIM is that it is located in a squatter settlement. The existence and process of squatter settlements is something I have recently learned about while in Guatemala. They are neighborhoods that are built with scraps that the people can find or sometimes the materials are stolen. They are illegal to build but with enough people and organization the government is unable to stop the construction. The squatter settlement where the Women’s Co-Op is located is an example of a successful squatter villager. They now have roads. electricity, and the houses are made of concrete. These villages are often dangerous because they are overpopulated and the presence of police is rare. Having a place like the Women’s Co-Op in the community greatly helps to end the cycle of violence. It provides affordable health services, childcare, scholarships for education, it generates income, and it receives donations that better the lives of the people.
– Gretchen Kellogg