Seattle University and the Seattle International Foundation carried out a research trip with ten student fellows to assess the impact of Asociacion Generando, one of SIF’s grantees working to end violence against women. Student’s analyzed how women’s leadership in Guatemala is a catalyst for long-term social change. Below is a reflection from Caitlin Terashima.
Along with ten of my peers, three professors from Seattle University, and Michele Frix from the Seattle International Foundation, I travelled south to Guatemala this past June. I was selected as a student research fellow to investigate the impact of one of SIF’s grantees, Generando (ASOGEN), an organization based in Chimaltenango working to end violence against women.
Once I returned home, people would ask me “how was Guatemala?”, and I struggled to respond. Guatemala was beautiful. The countryside is lush, green, and stunning. The people I met are hardworking and kind. ASOGEN is creating social change within the country, and their work is inspiring. However, I also witnessed a very troubled side Guatemala. The Guatemala in which over 50% of women will experience violence from men in their lifetime. The Guatemala in which 98% of femicide cases, the murder of a woman because of her gender, remain in impunity. The Guatemala that is amidst a war against women.
Caitlin and ASOGEN staff
I struggled to reconcile the two Guatemala’s that I grew to know over the 11 days that I was there. There was so much violence, fear, and injustice that I was hearing about and experiencing on a daily basis. I found myself at points getting caught up in, what it felt like, hopelessness. And yet, I was so movtivated by the women that were siguiendo adelenate, continuing forward. I watched women who were labeled as victims; show us that they were not victims, but survivors. These women were seeking to change Guatemala, not only for themselves, but for their families. I remember sitting with one of the beneficiaries, as she told me and my interview partner her story. Through tears, she told me that she had to set an example for her sons by leaving her husband. She told me that her dream for her sons is that they don’t treat their wives and girlfriends as she had been treated, that they treated them well, as they deserved. The tears continued to stream down her face, but these weren’t the tears of a victim, they were the tears of a survivor that was breaking the cycle of abuse and showing her sons the importance of respecting the rights of both men and women.
Despite the trip being a whirlwhind of emotions, what struck me most about it was ASOGEN’s impact. The number of women that we interviewed who constantly thanked us for supporting ASOGEN and the work that they are doing was countless. They were thankful not only for the necessary services provided or the workshops, but also for the act of attentive accompaniment. The women working for Generando are so dedicated to their work and to the cause, and the responses from the beneficiaries reflected this. In concluding our interview, we asked if she had any additional comments. After remaining quiet for a minute, she said that thanks to ASOGEN, she now knows that “no estoy sola,”she is not alone, but that they are there to support her.
Join Seattle University faculty and students, as they present the images and findings of their research trip in Guatemala. The exhibition features photos from Sy Bean and Claire Garuette. The event is sponsored by the Matteo Ricci College’s Poverty Education Center, in partnership with the Seattle International Foundation.