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Women challenging oppression in Guatemala

by Lorraine Keane.

My visit to Guatemala with Trócaire was a week of incredibly mixed emotions; delight at seeing how Trócaire’s work is improving lives, and huge sadness at the stories of abuse suffered by women and young girls. This abuse became common during Guatemala’s 36 year war and still occurs today.

Before the visit Trócaire told me about a global campaign, between 25 November and 10 December, that calls for an end to violence against women. I was taken aback on reading statistics about the levels of abuse that women are subjected to. In the weeks before the trip I thought to myself ‘I will be ok with this … I will be fine’. But when you get to Central America and meet women in their sixties and seventies, as I did, who tell you about being sexually abused by armed forces during the war, it is shocking to hear. It really angers you. You want to talk about it and raise as much awareness about it as you can.

Lorraine Keane on her recent visit to Guatemala city

Caption: Lorraine Keane on her recent visit to Guatemala city. The country is still recovering from 36 years of civil war.  Photo: Jeannie O Brien.

Trócaire works with Guatemalan organisations that support these women, many of whom come from rural areas and are widowed, poor and illiterate. It also helps women who currently suffer domestic abuse or whose children have been illegally taken and trafficked for sexual exploitation or adoption. This is a real problem in poor communities, where women struggle to speak up for themselves and don’t know their rights.  

They have lived with no hope of justice until now. 

I met brave women like Norma Cruz at the Fundación Sobrevivientes (Foundation for Survivors) and Lucia Morán and Paula Barrios working at the Mujeres Transformando el Mundo (Women Transforming the World). These leaders, because this is what they are, stand shoulder to shoulder with abused women. Every day they challenge oppression and they seek justice in the courts for abused women, while putting their own lives on the line. They are to be truly admired. Together, all of these woman are heroes in the struggle for a more just and peaceful society in Guatemala.

Lorraine Keane with photographs of 'Mindi' who was physically abused by her husband

Caption: Lorraine Keane with photographs of ‘Mindi’ who was physically abused by her husband.  In Guatemala domestic abuse is still a sorry aftermath of the civil war. Fundación Sobrevivientes provides support to women like Mindi. Award winning human rights activist, Norma Cruz. Fundación Sobrevivientes. Photos: Jeannie O Brien.

Around the world Trócaire helps families to overcome poverty, improve the health and education of their children and build a more certain future. Part of that work is getting to the root causes of poverty and supporting people whose human rights are being violated. This human rights work with women in Guatemala is vital.

People in Ireland are very generous, even in these times of economic uncertainty and worry. So it’s important that we know our donations are being well spent. I’ve seen for myself the incredible difference donations from Ireland are making. I’ve sat with courageous women who are trying to build a better life and are able to do this because of kind support from people in Ireland. And I’m filled with admiration when I see how people who have suffered unbelievable brutality, struggle on with dignity and rebuild their lives. Your support is helping them in their wish for a better future.

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