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Rosalina Tuyuc Velásquez, a Guatemalan human rights activist, has never given up looking for truth and justice, since her father and husband were disappeared during the Guatemalan civil war. After her father and husband were kidnapped and murdered by government forces during the Guatemalan civil war, she founded the National Association of Guatemalan Widows (CONAVIGUA). It is now a leading national human rights organisation. In 1995, she was elected as a Congressional deputy, and in 2004 she chaired the National Reparations Commission to investigate crimes committed during the civil war, which raged for over three decades.
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As Latin America enters a critical phase of the COVID-19 emergency, recently surpassing 5 million cases and 200,000 deaths , women domestic workers are raising alarm about the lack of economic relief, healthcare and other social protection, and organizing in solidarity to help other workers.
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Since March 2020, Guatemala has recorded more than 600 COVID-19 deaths and over 11,000 infections. Amidst this crisis, indigenous women have continued to use their voices, knowledge and capacities to assist their communities and adapt their livelihoods. To build back better, their needs and concerns, but also their leadership must be placed at the centre of COVID-19 recovery plans.
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For far too long, sexual harassment and violence have been normalized in college campuses across Guatemala, creating a pervasive rape culture. Armed with new data and research, students and leading and shaping public opinion for recognizing sexual harassment as a crime.
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This interview features Demecia Yat, one of 15 women survivors of conflict-related sexual violence in Guatemala. From 2011 – 2016, they fought for justice at a national high court. The groundbreaking case resulted in the conviction of two former military officers of crimes against humanity and granted 18 reparation measures to the women survivors and their communities.
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As a mentor, Claudia Macz Chen, 25, works with girls to encourage their empowerment, self-esteem and continued education in rural and indigenous communities in Guatemala. She attended her first training with the Population Council in the Chisec Municipality when she was 17 and has since honed her leadership and advocacy skills. With UN Women’s support, she participated in the National Women’s Forum, having received training on the monitoring of the Guatemalan Peace Accords.
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Sonia Maribel Sontay Herrera is an indigenous woman and human rights defender from Guatemala. Her vision is for Guatemala to respect the rights of indigenous women and hear their voices.
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A grantee of UN Women’s Fund for Gender Equality is pushing for better income, health insurance, safer working conditions; and helping exploited domestic workers take their cases to the courts.
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Guatemala is now part of the European Union and the United Nations led “Spotlight Initiative” to eliminate violence against women and girls and harmful practices in more than 13 countries worldwide. In 2019, through the Spotlight initiative, UN Women will continue supporting actions as part the Guatemala City Safe City Programme and launch initiatives to safeguard women against sexual harassment in two new municipalities: Cobán and Chinaultla.
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During the 36-year-long Guatemalan civil war, indigenous women were systematically raped and enslaved by the military in a small community near the Sepur Zarco outpost. What happened to them then was not unique, but what happened next, changed history. From 2011 – 2016, 15 women survivors fought for justice at the highest court of Guatemala. The groundbreaking case resulted in the conviction of two former military officers of crimes against humanity and granted 18 reparation measures to the women survivors and their community. The abuelas of Sepur Zarco, as the women are respectfully referred to, are now waiting to experience justice. Justice, for them, includes education for the children of their community, access to land, a health-care clinic and such measures that will end the abject poverty their community has endured across generations. Justice must be lived.
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At thirty, Olga Macz is a teacher and entrepreneur, and a force to be reckoned with. She leads a women’s group in Campur, a small municipality in the mostly rural Alta Vara Paz department of Guatemala, which makes and sells organic shampoo. For many of the women, this is the first time that they are making their own money and making decisions.
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Irlanda Pop is the Mayor of Lanquín, a municipality in the Alta Verapaz department of Guatemala. She is the only indigenous Mayor and one of ten women Mayors in the country. Elected in 2015 for a term of four years, Pop has survived serious political attacks and continues to fight discrimination on account of her gender and indigenous identity. UN Women supported Pop to participate in the IV Ibero-American Summit of Local Gender Agendas that took place in Cuenca, Ecuador, in May 2018. There, she led an exchange between women leaders of different indigenous communities of the region about political participation of indigenous women and how to address violence against women in politics. UN Women supports the leadership of women in politics and peacebuilding in Guatemala through several initiatives, including through Women’s Political Empowerment and Leadership flagship programme.
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Indigenous women of Guatemala’s Polochic valley are feeding their families, growing their businesses and saving more money than ever before, with the help of a joint UN programme that’s empowering rural women.
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Thousands of Guatemalans recently lost their homes in the eruption of Volcán de Fuego, and many victims have sought refuge at temporary shelters. María Ohong, resident of El Porvenir, and a victim of the disaster herself, is working to help others who have lost their loved ones, homes and livelihoods. UN Women has supported a government-run shelter at the Escuela Mendez Montenegro in Alotenango, where women like Ohong have organized themselves to ensure equitable distribution of relief items and protection for women and girls.
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Sandra Moran is Guatemala’s first openly lesbian member of the Congress. She organized the country’s first lesbian group in 1995, and was elected in 2015. She is well-known for her vocal support for women’s rights, indigenous women’s rights and LGBT rights in Guatemala.
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Martha Benavente, from Tucurú, a small municipality in Guatemala trained for six months to become a solar engineer, and she is bursting with energy. She can’t wait to start building solar lamps so that her community can have sustainable energy at last. One solar lamp could sell for up to 200 Quetzals, a lucrative business opportunity for a woman in a traditionally male-dominated field.
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Thelma Aldana is the Public Prosecutor and Head of the Public Ministry of Guatemala, who will complete her term in May 2018. She is known as a champion of women’s rights, UN Security Council Resolution 1325, and the force behind the creation of specialized courts for femicide and violence against women cases in 2010. Today, there are 12 of these specialized courts in Guatemala. UN Women has supported the Public Ministry in adopting and implementing the Women and Men´s Equality...
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The Swedish Government, through its development agency Sida, announced today a US$5 million commitment towards the Joint Programme on Accelerating Progress towards the Economic Empowerment of Rural Women (JP RWEE).
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On 25 October, women leaders and experts gathered at the UN Headquarters to discuss issues of masculinities, violence against women, and women’s participation in peace and justice in transitional societies. With 2 billion people across 35 countries and territories affected by fragility, conflict and violence, women’s active participation and leadership in preventing conflict and sustaining peace is critical.
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Sepur Zarco was the first case of conflict-related sexual violence challenged under Guatemala’s penal code. It was also the first time that a national court anywhere in the world had ruled on charges of sexual slavery during an armed conflict—a crime under international law. In its path-breaking judgment, the Guatemalan court noted that sexual violence against indigenous Maya Q’eqchi’ women was part of a deliberate strategy by the Guatemalan Army.