What We Do

The Women's Justice Initiative employs a holistic approach to prevent child marriage and gender-based violence, improve access to justice in rural Guatemala, and provide Maya women and girls with the tools to become leaders in their communities.

Where We Work

WJI works with Maya women in the Western Highlands of Guatemala. We partner with rural, indigenous communities that predominantly speak Kaqchikel, a native Mayan language. Indigenous women, including Maya Kaqchikel, are especially vulnerable to violence due to their limited access to resources. In rural communities, poverty, discrimination, isolation, and social norms combine to create heightened challenges for Maya women.

Partner Communities:

  • Xepatán
  • Chipiacul
  • Xeatzán Alto
  • Las Camelias
  • San Lorenzo
  • El Sitio
  • Chuiquel
  • Cojobal
  • Xetzitzí
  • Popabaj
  • Los Pinos
  • Panimaquim
  • Xeatzán Bajo
  • Paraíso Chichoy
  • Chichoy Alto
  • Saquiyá
  • Las Mercedes
  • El Llano
  • Chuchucá Bajo
  • Chuinimachicaj
  • El Milagro
  • La Pila
  • Aldea Cruz De Santiago
  • Paxorotot
  • Chirijuyú
  • Pueblo Viejo
  • La Trompeta
  • Xejolón
  • Pachimulín
  • Paxixil
  • Chuatzité
  • Chivarabal
  • Xejabí
  • Xetenox
  • Pamanzana
  • Asunción Manzanales

Why Guatemala

Why is our work in Guatemala so important? As a country, Guatemala has a particularly high rate of indigenous families living in poverty, as well as one of the highest rates of violence against women in the world. By working directly with indigenous women in rural communities, we can begin to break intergenerational cycles of violence and inequality.

    40%

    of the population is indigenous.

    75%

    of the indigenous population lives in poverty.

    3rd

    highest rate of violent death among women in the world.

    60%

    of indigenous girls drop out of school by age 15.

    40%

    of indigenous girls are married by age 18.

    3rd

    lowest rank in Latin America on the gender inequality index

Our Programs

Legal Services Program

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Women’s Rights Education Program

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Adolescent Girls Program

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Community Advocates Program

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2011

WJI was Founded

WJI is founded to address violence against women and girls and improve Maya women’s access to justice. WJI piloted its Women’s Rights Education Program, working with 15 women in one community in Patzún.

2012

WJI Expands to 5 New Communities

WJI expanded its methodology into 5 communities and launched its Community Advocates Program. 10 women who graduated from the Women’s Rights Education Program completed intensive training to serve their communities as Advocates.

2013

The Legal Services Program is Founded

WJI began its Legal Services Program, becoming the first organization in Guatemala to implement a combination of rights education and mobile legal outreach in rural communities in the local Mayan language.

2014

WJI Expands to 12 Communities with 500+ Women Participants

WJI expanded to a total of 12 communities with over 500 women participants. Our Legal Services Program provided legal counseling to 150 women and their families, including 23 women who receive land titles. WJI’s 15 Community Advocates dedicated over 2,250 hours of work to provide mentorship, leadership, and women’s rights education to their peers.

2015

The Adolescent Girls Program is Founded

WJI strengthened its holistic methodology, implementing a new Adolescent Girls Program focused on ending child marriage through interventions with girls, parents, and community leaders. In 2015, over 1,100 women and girls participated in our programs, which as a result benefitted more than 4,000 individuals.

2016

WJI Programs Expand to 18 New Communities

The United Nations Trust Fund to End Violence against Women awarded WJI a three-year grant, allowing us to expand our programming to 18 new communities and double our number of program participants. As part of this initiative, WJI began training police, service providers, and local leaders to build institutional capacity to respond to cases of violence against women and girls.

2017

Hivos International and Dining for Women Awards Grants

The transformative impact of WJI’s work was recognized through grant awards by Hivos International and Dining for Women. Through their support, we worked with 280 elected leaders from 11 communities to implement Community Action Plans, developing community-based responses and prevention mechanisms for violence against women and girls and child marriage. The number of women counseled by WJI’s legal team increased by 72% from the previous year, totaling 495 legal cases.

2018

The United Nations Democracy Fund Awards WJI with a Two-Year Grant

The United Nations Democracy Fund awarded WJI a two-year grant to support the replication of WJI’s programming in a second municipality. In 2018, WJI reached 33 rural communities with its work and 4,857 women, men, and children participated in our programs. We strengthened our Adolescent Girls Program through partnerships with the Global Fund for Children and Girls Not Brides.

Our Impact

Over 20,000 individuals have participated WJI’s programs, benefiting over 60,000 people in 38 communities.
To date, WJI has trained 600+ community leaders, police, and government service providers to improve responses to violence against women and girls and child marriage.
82 Community Advocates have been trained to provide long-term peer-to-peer support and mentorship to women and girls in their communities
After completing WJI’s programs, 42% of participants sought legal aid, an increase from 4% at baseline, and 100% of participants reported feeling strong and safer.
If I spoke to another abused woman, I would tell her to get help from WJI. I would tell her that she doesn’t have to live with violence in her home. As women, we have rights and nobody should mistreat us. We should get help, and not let this continue to happen

María

Legal Services Program Client

All my life I have felt pain and suffering, but through WJI, I started to feel better because I was able to speak with others about my problems. For the first time, I understood that I have rights. I learned that I have value.

Teresa

Women’s Rights Education Program Participant

In the past, community leaders haven’t paid much attention to child marriage and other problems facing girls in our communities. After participating in WJI’s program, we have realized the importance of addressing these issues and working with our community to end child marriage.

Lucio

Community Mayor

As a Maya Kaqchikel woman, I firmly believe that WJI has provided valuable and powerful tools to women [in the communities] where we work, so that they may be actors in their own lives. The greatest gift that this experience at WJI has given me is to see the leadership development of women in the communities and to witness how they lose their fear to exercise their rights as human beings.

Viviana Patal

Legal Director

Before WJI came into our community, there was hardly any participation from women in community assemblies, but since WJI began their work in 2013, there are even more women than men. They are recognizing me as a leader in the community.

Josefina Yos

Community Advocate

When women begin to know their rights, their attitude changes. They realize that they can make changes in their lives and in their family, treating boys and girls equally.

Delfy Raquec

Adolescent Girls Program Facilitator

The most important thing I learned with WJI was self-esteem. My life goal right now is to grow up and have a successful future. I want a future in which I am happy. I have seen changes with other adolescent girls in my community too. Before WJI came, teens would move away with their boyfriends at a very young age. Now, they are making other, better decisions, and child marriage has decreased in our community.

Clara Michelle Yos

Adolescent Girls Program Participant, 16 years old

I am a woman who is no longer afraid to confront the challenges in my life, in my family, and even in my community. I have discovered myself and know that I have value.

Angelica

WJI Community Advocate

As an indigenous woman, I have faced many challenges in my life. For that reason, I want to inspire other women from communities like mine and show them that it does not matter if we are women or indigenous, that it does not matter what obstacles are in our way; we have rights.

Elvia Raquec

Programs Director