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UNIFEM Panel Discussion on Violence Against Women in Latin America

by Lady Madonna Monday, Feb. 18, 2008 at 6:58 AM

02.16.08 Panel Discussion on Violence Against Women in Latin America

The S. CA chapter of UNIFEM/USA and SOKA University presented a morning discussion on violence against women in the Latin Americas. Lucia Munoz, founder of Mujeres Iniciando en Las Americas (Women Initiating in the Americas), gave a talk entitled "Women in Guatemala: Hidden in Plain Sight." The event also highlighted UNIFEM's Safe Cities in the Latin Americas, a program which aims to free cities from violence against women in public as well as private places

UNIFEM Panel Discuss...
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02.16.08 This morning I went to Soka University for the first time. It was gorgeous! There were beautiful stone buildings, sculptures, fountains, and a stunning view. I felt like I was at a museum. The panel discussion took place in a lecture theatre with top of the line technology and coffee and snacks. The discussion began with Cece Sloan, the head of the Southern California chapter of UNIFEM (United Nations Development Fund for Women), speaking briefly about UNIFEM and what it is they do. She stated that their goals include ending gender based violence, supporting women in leadership and stopping the spread of HIV/AIDS. She then showed a short film about UNIFEM called A Life Free of Violence is our Right.
Ceces introduction of Lucia Muoz stated that she is the executive director for MIAmericas, adding that when she was in Guatemala her friend disappeared overnight. Lucia took the stage and started out by stating, Gracias in the name of our sisters in Guatemala. She then choked up, stated that, as Cece said, her friend disappeared. She paused for a moment and looked down. Its been 25 years and it still feels like the day he disappeared on me.
She then stated that she is not the only person working to help the women in Guatemala; that the Washington Office of Latin America and Amnesty International are, but that she is the only one she knows of here in California. She spoke a little bit about Norma Cruz, an activist in Guatemala who she works closely with and stated that since she now has citizenship status here in the U.S., that she goes back and forth to Guatemala. I am the bridge she stated.
Lucia went on to describe that during the 36 year civil war in Guatemala that the world was watching us. She stated that other countries were keeping track of the violence: the murders, rapes, disappeared. The world took off she said, describing that once the peace accords were signed in 1996, nobody kept their eye on Guatemala. They abandoned us.
She alleged these are the guys from the civil war doing these killings. She explained that once the war was over, the weaponry was supposedly all returned to the government, but that the men who were fighting the war often had little or no education and knew nothing but war. She stated that that same military weaponry is popping up along with the violence and that these are not random killings. The oligarchy of Guatemala now is giving the guns back to them she added, stating that many of the veterans were now doing security work for the government.
She then told the story of a teenaged girl who was kidnapped while walking down the street, brought into a mens jail, and thrown into a cell with a group of prisoners. She was raped 25 times, she said, before the last guy had pity on her and told the one who yanked her off the street to put her back as close to where he found her as possible. She paused and added, she went through iron doors. Somebody had to have let her in. We later found out that the man who brought her there was a policeman.
The room was silent, everyone was fixed on Lucia. People were in shock. But there is a womens movement there; people are fighting. They park themselves in front of the courthouse like the civil rights movement here in the U.S.
There, impunity is ingrained; machismo is very much alive. She then showed us a BBC documentary called Killers Paradise.

After the movie, she spoke a little about what she called the mens movement and held up a copy of the book The Macho Paradox by Jackson Katz which she described as her bible. She explained that the movement began in Canada and that it is now spreading. The idea, she said is to stop violence against women by educating young boys. She said that there are plans to start putting it in schools in Guatemala, but she needs funding.
After Lucia was a woman named Pat McCully, founder of Circulo de Amigas, a Nicaraguan organization. Pat was a retired schoolteacher from Huntington Beach who began her organization by donating and acquiring donations of sewing machines for the women in Jinotega, Nicaragua. It has now progressed into a scholarship program, a preschool, and a clinic with a full time doctor. She showed a short film as well which stated that at the time it was taped (I believe it was 2005) that 89 girls were in college full time on scholarship from donors in the United States.
Next a woman named Ellen Snortland spoke for a moment and showed us an amazing trailer. She said that people are always talking about how to prevent violence against women and how to get over it after it happens, but what about during? What if women fought back? She stated that due to the high violence happening to women Tijuana factory workers, they started a self defense program. Here is her trailer:

She stated that she hasnt finished it yet, due to funding needs.
The panel discussion ended with Cece Sloan wrapping it up, and the rest of us trading information and meeting one another. The networking was amazing; so many women belonging to so many groups and all of us wanting to work together. It was a very productive day.
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Lucia Munoz and Cece Sloan

by Lady Madonna Monday, Feb. 18, 2008 at 6:58 AM

Lucia Munoz and Cece...
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Cece Sloan

by Lady Madonna Monday, Feb. 18, 2008 at 6:58 AM

Cece Sloan...
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