Reflection by Intern Winnie Bower, currently working with the Office of the Achi Woman (Rabinal Legal Clinic) in Rabinal.

I have been working at a women’s office in a community legal clinic, in the small town of Rabinal in Guatemala for the last four months. As an intern with the Maritime based Breaking the Silence Network, I am spending a total of 8 months working with an organization that does important work in the reconstruction of a society that was torn apart in the 1980’s during the internal armed conflict in Guatemala. Rabinal, was very badly affected, with massacres that occurred all over the municipality.

Through seeing the work that the Achí Women’s Office does, it is clear that people’s lives have in many cases not been reconstructed, and the repression that was so prominent and violent during the internal armed conflict continues to manifest itself in different forms today. Thus, recognizing the International Day for Violence Against Women, on November 25th, is still extremely important, as well as recognizing all of the work that organizations around the world do to combat this ongoing struggle.

Here in Guatemala I still see signs of violence everywhere. Although it may not always be visible to the public eye, or to the rest of the world, violence has creeped its way into the inter-weavings of this society, and the state has played a large role in this. Hearing women’s stories of their experiences during the conflict, and what they have been left with as a result of the conflict has demonstrated to me that healing for these communities is still far from achieved. Women we visit are still subjected to violence in their homes, and reconciliation efforts are far from the reality of these women who are living with a history of experiencing violence in their lives. Lack of government services to assist in recuperation efforts, and continued state violence have continued to fuel what have become realities for many women today.

During these 16 days of actions, lets recognize and support organizations like the Achí Women’s Office. Lets remember those women who have lost their lives to violence, and lets let others know about the realities women are living in today. The stories that I have heard in my short time here are reminders that although you may not directly see violence in your own life, it can be all around you. They are reminders that violence comes in many forms, whether or not there is a war going on. They are reminders that we are still far from eliminating violence in our world.