When Doña Leticia, a 36-year old woman from Chirijuyú, first heard that WJI was starting a rights education program in her community, she was primarily interested in the embroidery lessons included in the workshops. But after attending a few workshops, the topics started to grab her attention.
She says, “I had already heard some similar talks before, but not in the same way that [WJI’s facilitators] gave them. They made the workshops much more specific and clear, with more examples. I liked that they weren’t just talking to us, but they also brought in people with technical skills, such as psychologists and lawyers, who know how to help people address the problems that they have in their lives.”
Doña Leticia had long experienced problems in her marriage, including incidents of violence. Before joining WJI’s Women’s Rights Education program, she had been severely depressed. “Whenever someone gets married they think it’s a beautiful thing... But that didn’t happen for me. It was hard. Before being in the program I would always say, ‘Why am I even alive? Why am I putting up with this? I’m better off disappearing.’ My self esteem was down to the floor. I didn’t see any path out, not forward or back.”
Doña Leticia kept sneaking out to attend WJI’s workshops. She would tell her husband she was just going to embroider, since she knew he would not allow her to go if he knew the truth. As time went on, Doña Leticia began to compare the examples in the workshops with her own life, “I thought, ‘well that’s happening to me and I haven’t done anything about it.’”
When the course ended, she decided to seek help at the WJI office. She met with Marta, WJI’s psychologist, who eventually helped her feel strong enough to stand up for herself. Doña Leticia decided it was now or never: “Am I going to keep holding everything in or am I going to do something for my life and for my kids? What was the point of fighting all this time just to give up now?”
From there, she found her voice: “I told my husband that I wasn’t going to leave my whole life behind and that I had been suffering since the day we got married. I told him that I hadn’t received any support from him and that he had humiliated me. The program helped me a lot, since it opened my eyes to this.”
She decided to go to the authorities and press charges against her husband, and continued to see Marta for counseling. Now, Doña Leticia feels like a different person from just months before. She feels safer, more free, and at peace. She’s started working in her own shop and plans to continue growing her business.
She knows that many other women are going through the same thing she went through, and she wants them to know that they are not alone. “Whenever I see a woman who is suffering but feels too ashamed to do something about it, I tell her, ‘Well look at what I’ve accomplished and what I have now.” She believes that, as long as women do their part, “with the help of this program, you can get out.”