WJI seeks to break the barriers that exist for rural indigenous women, by investing in their knowledge, skills, and leadership. WJI’s Community Advocates Program taps into the transformative potential of Maya women, training them to become leaders, women’s rights educators, and mentors to women and girls in their communities. Advocates become catalysts of change and help narrow the gaps of inequality.

Meet the Advocates!

The four Advocates profiled, all Maya Kaqchikel women, illustrate the varied life experiences embodied by the women who WJI serves. Rosa, Sara, Irma, and Miriam note the impact that WJI has had on their lives and their communities. They are redefining women’s roles and envisioning a brighter future for the next generation.

Sara

Sara Salomon, a 21-year old Community Advocate from Tecpán, recognizes that access to services and resources is critical for women and girls living in isolated communities. Sara believes that if women can identify violence and know what resources are available, they can better respond and possibly prevent it in their lives.

In 2022 Sara began facilitating workshops with the Adolescent Girls Program, building on her passion to help young women and girls.

“I love working with this age group. I can really help them pave the way for a better future. I use my young age to build trust with them. I start by asking them how they are, how their week has been, and I have the patience to wait for them to open up. Then, they begin to participate more actively.”

Rosa

Rosa retired from her job as a schoolteacher in San José Poaquil in 2021, a profession that she pursued as part of a personal commitment to serve her community. In 2022, at 50 years old, she became a Community Advocate to honor that commitment.

Rosa was excited to teach women about their rights, provide legal accompaniment to women seeking services, and use her past experience working with community leaders to improve their response to survivors of violence. Rosa believes that education and legal services are integral to the eradication of violence against women.

 “We are bringing support and services to women who are very vulnerable, and who are suffering from violence. Leadership, self-esteem, and public speaking were not taught to us growing up. Women in my community don’t know much about the law, about their rights. Many of them grew up experiencing violence, whether physical or through denial of their rights. WJI brings us new knowledge to support women.”

Irma

Irma Alonzo Paredes is a Community Advocate who has accompanied numerous women seeking legal support in response to violence. Her work exemplifies the unique and vital role that Advocates play in their communities. Irma has developed critical connections to local justice institutions and has established herself as a trusted individual that women can seek out for advice and consultations.

Recently, Irma accompanied a mother and her two children to seek legal services. The woman’s husband had threatened her and forced them out of the house. The woman sought help from Irma who welcomed them into her home. “I was in shock, especially seeing the children trembling. But I knew I could call WJI’s lawyer and she would help us.”

The next day, Irma accompanied the family to WJI’s office in the municipal center. While they were out, the woman’s husband arrived at Irma’s home, accusing her of meddling in their relationship and calling her disparaging names. Irma’s husband defended her, responding that she has the right to help women, mentioning the importance of WJI’s work in the community. This response is an example of how family dynamics can evolve and improve after participation in WJI programs, and how men are essential allies in transforming the attitudes that normalize gender-based violence.

Irma and her husband illustrate the strength of the network that characterizes the Community Advocates Program. Promoting community-based resources to respond to and prevent violence can transform the harmful norms that treat gender-based violence as acceptable.

Miriam

Miriam, a 24-year-old Community Advocate, found new inspiration to continue her studies after beginning the Advocates program in 2022. Economic limitations prohibited Miriam from studying past the third grade. That, coupled with her parents’ separation as a child, affected her self-esteem and left her without a strong network of support. Now, with the encouragement of her fellow Community Advocates, she feels greater self-confidence and has enrolled in a literacy program.

Recently, Miriam provided legal accompaniment to a survivor of violence, a woman from her community. She said through this experience she began to understand the value of her role as an Advocate and is inspired to continue helping women. Now she feels motivated and encouraged to continue her education and believes that will enable her to do even more good.

“I want to keep studying. My goal is to one day become a nurse. I’ve always been fascinated by it since I was a kid, but I never felt confident enough to try. Now, I know I can do it.”

Stories like Miriam’s illustrate that when women are supported, they envision a world where they are active members and changemakers within their communities.


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