Empowering Indigenous Women to Combat Femicide in Guatemala

Guatemala faces one of the highest rates of femicide globally, with a staggering 98% of cases going unpunished. Indigenous women and girls in rural areas are particularly vulnerable due to limited resources and persistent harmful attitudes. However, the Women’s Justice Initiative (WJI), with funding from the UN Trust Fund to End Violence against Women, is making a real difference.  

Empowering Women and Girls

WJI teaches women and girls about their rights and how to seek help. They run legal literacy courses in 12 communities, informing Indigenous women and girls about what constitutes violence and how to report it. ‘When women’s knowledge about violence against women increases, their attitudes, and those of their family and community about its acceptability, change,’ says Mary Catherine Driese, Impact and Development Officer at WJI. These courses have led to more women seeking support services and accessing justice, reducing impunity for perpetrators.

Credit: WJI

Vilma Coy, WJI paralegal. Credit: WJI

Providing Legal Services

WJI offers legal clinics, mobile outreach consultations, and monthly visits to rural communities. During the COVID-19 crisis, they pivoted to providing legal services online, which remain available today. However, in-person consultations are still preferred, as they build trust and comfort. ‘The community visits really do make a difference,’ says Vilma Coy, a paralegal at WJI. ‘Women now trust us enough to file reports.’

Training Community Advocates

WJI trains over 40 community advocates through a two-year human rights and leadership development program. These advocates support survivors and lead education courses in their communities. Feedback from advocates led WJI to create a network providing a safe space for sharing experiences and honing skills.

Making a Difference

Reflecting on WJI’s work, Mildred Garcia, Operations Manager at the UN Trust Fund noted, ‘WJI’s inclusive and culturally sensitive approach fosters continuous enhancements in their programs.’ As a result, at least 80% of women participants report feeling safer and having more control over their lives.

Your support these 16 Days of Activism will ensure vital programs like this receive continued funding through the UN Trust Fund.

Supporting vulnerable women in war-torn Ukraine

In a landscape where gender-based violence looms large and support services are scarce, especially for the most vulnerable communities, the need for action has never been more urgent.

Discover how Club Eney, with support from the UN Trust Fund to End Violence against Women, remains a beacon of hope, offering shelter, medication, and vital support to marginalised women and girls in war-torn Ukraine.

Reclaiming Her Life

*This story contains sensitive content and distressing themes of acid attacks and assault. The content may be triggering for individuals who have experienced or are sensitive to violence, abuse or related topics.

Chhean was a cook in Siem Reap, Cambodia, a widow and sole provider of four children when she discovered one day, that her brother-in-law had sold his two year old daughter to a trafficking ring. She confronted him and demanded he get his daughter back otherwise she would report him. In response, a week after the confrontation, he drove by on his motorcycle while Chhean was working and threw acid on her. It burned her face, eyes, shoulders, left hand and entire left side of her back.

Another woman, Ponleu, experienced a similar form of violence. At 18, she married an older man who was emotionally and physically abusive. After years of enduring his abuse, she gave birth to a daughter. When she finally found the courage to ask for a divorce, the man doused Ponleu with gasoline and lit her on fire in front of their three year old daughter.

In Cambodia, acid attacks and burns violence against women are common and widespread, however the survivors often find themselves without adequate legal, medical and psychological support.

Chhean couldn’t afford medical care and thinking she would never be able to work again and support her family, she battled with thoughts of suicide. Ponleu spent her entire savings on medical treatment and was so ashamed of how she looked, she avoided leaving the house.

Both women eventually found the support they needed through Cambodian Acid Survivors Charity (CASC), a local organization receiving funding from the UN Trust Fund. CASC offers holistic support to survivors of acid burns violence and runs a commune where survivors can access a range of services and support ranging from medical and legal assistance to skills training and peer support.

At a national level, CASC has contributed to draft legislation to regulate the sale of acid and to provide harsher criminal sentences to perpetrators.

Chhen believes if a law had been in place prior to her attack, it would have saved her, “He would not have dared to throw acid on me because he would have been afraid to be sent to prison.”

Both Chhean and Ponleu receive ongoing medical care and employment support at CASC today. The two woman have also become powerful pillars in the community through their support for other survivors of burn violence.

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