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The high cost of violence to women's health and lives.

The Punto Final Campaign has a coordinating team composed of four organizations, Tierra Viva, Ames, Nuestra Voz and Grupo Guatemalteco de Mujeres (GGM, Guatemalan Women's Group), which have employed a collective participation and decision-making process. An operational plan was used to coordinate actions at the national and local levels.

Actions at the Local Level

A baseline study carried out in Chimaltenango found high rates of sexual violence in this department, with adolescents and girls the most frequent victims, especially in the context of the family (see sidebar below). The study also found that women do not report this violence because they are afraid. In some cases, men send hired thugs to beat and kill women. Discrimination and racism are present particularly against indigenous women.

The results of the baseline were shared widely among different social actors in Chimaltenango and with the media.

A training plan to teach mentors and agents of change about prevention of violence against women was designed and implemented. Different sorts of training addressed specific groups, such as parents, teachers and staff in educational facilities, justice officials from public institutions, indigenous women and men, and women who provide services for other women.

The training processes included topics like social context, legal framework, racism, sexual violence, the body, broaching the subject of VAW, promoting advocacy and support for women to break the cycle of violence. Illiteracy is an important factor to consider, and some communities speak very little Spanish, which requires specific methodologies for these population groups.

A communications strategy developed and disseminated printed materials to promote the campaign and the prevention of VAW.

The challenge of working with men is gradually being addressed. Until now, the campaign has interacted with members of the justice system, children, youth, teachers and parents. Undoubtedly, this is an essential step in generating a profound cultural change.

Women's Status in Chimaltenango

The Campana Punto Final a la Violencia Contra las Mujeres (Campaign to Put an End to Violence Against Women) identified as an urgent priority the need to understand the situation of violence in the department of Chimaltenango. In the context of the Campaign, during October 2010 a situational analysis on violence against women was carried out under the coordination of Liria Tay Ajquill and Silvia Arenas Bautista.

The study consisted of a set of in-depth interviews applied to 50 young women, ages 12 to 20, all levels of schooling, and 107 women, ages 21 to 46, in the 15 municipalities in the department of Chimaltenango. The women who were interviewed worked in health centers, hospitals, courts, public and private offices; they included students, university professionals, farmers, midwives, organized women, housewives, women leaders and sex workers. We also included 50 men, and for a better result, surveys were applied to men who worked in social media or law firms responsible for public defense as well as public authorities, spiritual leaders, students from five universities operating in the department, university officials and workers in the areas of public education, health and justice as well as workers in rural areas and in various trades.

The main conclusions of the study were:

--Indigenous women endure racism and ethnic and gender discrimination on a daily basis, both within their communities and in the general public. Such practices are the result of a sexist system of political and social exclusion that has historically existed in the country and the region.

--There is evidence that violence continues to be used as a mechanism to oppress and control women. This violence is reproduced through a range of institutions, including the family, school, organized religion and the community.

--Women do not trust the current justice system, due to the inefficient and inadequate attention in the services they provide.

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--Women do not know about the law or the procedure for filing a complaint; their lack of information is clearly evident.

--There is a lack of an awareness of cultural relevance in the justice system and in monitoring of reported cases. The personal beliefs and individual standards of the members of the justice system hinder the effective reporting of cases of violence.

--The current records do not reflect the reality of violence against women that occurs daily, but rather they minimize these crimes, contribute to the growing impunity and increase the vulnerability of the victims.

--The violent behavior and actions of young and adult men take the form of sexual harassment and abuse, rape, beatings, the use of physical force, threats and retaliation, behavior that forces women to give in against their will and keep silent about this violence.

--The study shows that the main causes of violence against women are the sexist culture, gender discrimination, lack of education, economic dependence and low self-esteem. Racism and discrimination are also recognized as forms of violence that have been used to keep women in conditions of subordination and inequality. It is viewed as "normal" or "natural" that women are perceived as sexual objects, without the right to exercise their citizenship.

--There is little understanding about the underlying factors that contribute to men's violent behavior, which is reinforced by a political and ideological system that oppresses women.

--Economic dependence is another element that contributes to women's tolerance for violence and aggression from their partners. They have dedicated themselves to being housewives and taking care of the family. This situation does not allow them to break the cycle of violence, to report their abuse and cope with their children alone.

JUNE 21, 2011

Day of Non-Sexist Education

Even before birth, our parents already had plans for our future. We might have been planned or not, but they already had a destiny planned for us, a lifestyle that has worked for centuries and that they experienced themselves, entrenched in the patriarchal system that defined (and defines) how men and women should behave. This system ensures that:

--If we are born men, we are taught to have a strong, aggressive and insensitive personality and to take a dominant role in society. Because we own our bodies and our sexuality, men have nothing to lose, and no one reproaches us for how we behave.

--If we are born women, we are taught to be caregivers, to be submissive and to adopt the role of the victim of violence, the one who suffers and endures. We are also taught that our destiny is to be a wife, mother and homemaker, that we must protect our virginity until marriage, that our bodies do not belong to us but to someone else who will make decisions for us.

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Our fathers and mothers may view this destiny as natural because it was their experience, and they accepted the roles of men and women as something precise and defined. However, over time we have found that such gender differences actually legitimize violence against girls and adolescent and adult women throughout their lives. Under this logic, "being a man" means exercising control over the body, sexuality and reproduction of women. That is why society views harassment, abuse, rape and incest of women as normal, tolerable and not worth reporting, thus tacitly accepting the unequal power relations among men and women. Although Guatemala has a Law of Universal and Equitable Access to Family Planning Services (Decree 87-2005), which guarantees access to sex education and a wide range of contraceptive methods for women and men of all ages, the numbers of pregnancies in girls and adolescents are increasing each year.
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Title Annotation:GUATEMALA
Publication:Women's Health Journal
Date:Oct 1, 2011
Words:1237
Previous Article:Impact throughout the community.
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