By: Women's Justice Initiative ||
The Inspiration is Mutual: Maribel and Doña Joaquina’s Story
How does WJI recruit Community Advocates to participate in our two-year leadership program? When WJI enters new communities, we conduct community mapping to meet community leaders, collect demographic data about rural communities, and encourage women to participate in WJI’s programs. Here, we show how one WJI staff member, Maribel Tun, and her mother, María Joaquina Velasco, inspired one another to join WJI’s mission to prevent gender-based violence and promote gender equality in their community.
Maribel Tun, a WJI staff member, is a 24-year old Maya Kaqchikel woman from the community of Patzocon in San Martín Jilotepeque. She is the second of eight children and is attending university to study primary education, inspired by her younger brothers and sisters. She grew up in a home where her education was valued equally to that of her brothers’, creating a supportive environment where her career and professional aspirations could flourish. Compelled by her interest to encourage women and girls to continue their education and improve gender equality in the municipality of San Martin Jilotepeque, Maribel joined the WJI team as a program facilitator in September 2021.
Maribel’s mother, Community Advocate Doña Joaquina, says, “I was so proud of Maribel when she started working at WJI. She’s helping us [women] in the community, a place that has been mostly forgotten and does not receive a lot of aid, support, or information.”
Now, Maribel leads workshops to teach women from her municipality about their rights, how to prevent gender-based violence, and what kinds of resources are available for women if they seek to report violence. Responsible for community mapping in San Martin Jilotepeque, Maribel also identifies potential Community Advocates.
“When we map, we go to the communities one by one and among other things, identify women with leadership potential to become Community Advocates. While I of course talked about my work at home with my mother, I did not actually map my own community, Patzocon. WJI team members approached me and said they identified my mother as a potential Advocate.”
Her mother adds, “I was interested in the role because I wanted to help women in my community with the problems they face everyday and be someone they can trust. I saw the work that Maribel was doing, and I thought, ‘this is such beautiful work, I want to do it too!’”
In their respective roles, Maribel and Doña Joaquina collaborated with other women to identify the primary issues to address in Patzocon: a lack of healthy communication within families, a focus on education only for boys, and psychological and physical violence against women.
“Gender inequality begets violence. If we can ensure gender equality for girls and boys, especially through education, as well as better family communication and women’s defense of their rights, we can reduce gender-based violence."
*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 and is critical to ensuring the sustainability of our work. Advocates undergo intensive leadership development, participating in workshops on human rights and violence prevention, as well as training on workshop facilitation, monitoring and evaluation, and community-based advocacy. Advocates lead rights-based workshops in their communities, conduct home visits and community mapping, and provide accompaniment to women seeking legal support.
Community Advocates amplify the voices of women in their communities, pass their knowledge on to future generations, and form female networks of support to break long-standing cycles of violence and inequality.