Low-income women are targets for an alarming rate of violence in Guatemala. The Interior Ministry of Guatemala reports that more than 700 women were murdered in Guatemala last year.
Below the news brief published by the Latin American Herald Tribune:
GUATEMALA CITY – Some 708 women were killed in Guatemala in 2009, based on Interior Ministry figures released on Saturday…
Murders of women last year were less than in 2008, when 773 women died violent deaths in this Central American country. Most crimes against women have gone unpunished despite the existence, since April 2008, of a specific law against femicide. According to activist Norma Cruz, who heads the Survivors Foundation that provides help for abused women, in Guatemala no plans exist to guarantee women’s safety. In a statement to reporters, Cruz said that more security agents are needed in areas considered extremely dangerous for women. The activist regretted that even though police and prosecutors nab the aggressors, the courts tend to free them with such substitute measures as letting them out on bail. Guatemala is second in the world in murders of women after Russia, which posts more than 10,000 crimes against women, according to the Human Rights Prosecutor’s Office.
Second in the world in murders of women. Jarring. Disheartening. I briefly touched upon this issue in an article I wrote for Revue Magazine. Las Gravileas is a school for low-income women that not only teaches women a wealth of technical skills and business skills, but one that also stresses the importance and value a women plays in her family and community. So, unlike traditional media where only the disappointing statistics are reported, I would like to point readers to a positive response. I would like to offer an opportunity for becoming part of the solution to the reported problem. Read about Las Gravileas, and, if you dare, become a part of the solution by donating or, better yet, getting involved. (Contact me for more information… if you dare.)
The Guardians of Las Gravileas
A project where women serve their sisters…
The center’s name is symbolic. In a country where coffee represents approximately 10 percent of the gross domestic income, the gravilea tree provides a critical, protective canopy for the shade-loving plant. Just as the gravilea tree provides this fundamental necessity for the cultivation of coffee, so, too, is Las Gravileas meant to offer a protective, nurturing environment for women of every background and ethnicity.
“It’s a name that represents receiving, taking care of, and supporting the growth of a woman,” Project Manager Dalila de Montoya says. The keys to achieving this ideal environment, she adds, are education and training.
Las Gravileas is defined as a center for the promotion and technical training of artisan women. The project offers a large assortment of instruction, ranging from textiles, piñata making and ceramic molding and painting to cooking and baking, basic literacy, business studies and more.
“The idea is that they can learn and make many things that offer them an opportunity to gain more in their lives,” Gravileas instructor Alma Díaz says. And that is precisely what the project’s goals spell out: generating more sources of work and promoting Guatemalan culture—all through the advancement of women. Why women? Because, de Montoya asserts, women are in dire need of support in Guatemala.
Not only are they frequent targets of violence simply because of their gender, women rarely receive opportunities for basic education. Globally Minded, a social enterprise committed to supporting Mayan communities in Guatemala, reports that Guatemala possesses the highest female illiteracy rate in Latin America. Index Mundi bolsters that claim, stating that the 2002 national census defined more than 60 percent of Guatemala’s female population as illiterate.
“Women are not seen as great contributors to the country, so violence against them seems to be acceptable,” said Norma Cruz, founder and director of the Survivor’s Foundation, an organization supporting victims of femicide (the murder of women by men purely because they are female) in an August Al Jazeera article…
Click here to read the entire article.