Written by Betsy Pocop.
November 25 is the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women. It marks the first day of the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence, and December 10 – International Human Rights Day – is the final day. This 16 days of activism is recognized internationally.
The International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women was designated in 1999 by the United Nations General Assembly. The date was chosen to commemorate the lives of the Mirabal sisters from the Dominican Republic who were violently assassinated in 1960. The day pays tribute to them, as well as urging global recognition of gender violence.
Gender-based violence affects us all. It destroys families, weakens the fabric of our society, and takes a heavy toll on our communities. Canadians are reminded during the 16 Days of Activism that they can take actions, now and throughout the year, to eliminate violence against women and girls in all its forms (with edits from Status of Women Canada).
**************A reflection by past BTS intern and former volunteer with the National Union of Guatemalan Women (UNAMG), Betsy Pocop:
My name is Betsy Pocop and I am a former BTS intern who worked in Rabinal, Baja Verapaz. Upon returning to Canada during the AGM, I among others was able to meet a remarkable woman who has dedicated her work to fighting the injustices in her country of Guatemala. Norma Herrera works with an organization called UNAMG (National Union of Guatemalan Women). I became greatly interested in her talks during the AGM and the work that the women’s organization does in supporting other human rights and social justice based organizations and individuals throughout Guatemala. I was fortunate enough to return to Guatemala this past September where I reconnected with Norma and had the opportunity to visit UNAMG, their wonderful staff and accompany them during one of the most important moments in the history of the organization.
I was able to join their team as they accompanied a group of women from the department of Izabal as their case went before courts in Guatemala. This is the first time in the history of the world that a case such as this goes before domestic courts. The women are victims of the internal armed conflict and are taking part in a case being labelled as sexual slavery. It was incredible to be in the presence of the women who have lived to tell of the atrocities they witnessed and suffered and also of the people who have stood behind them during this journey to justice. It was enriching to see the friendships and alliances that were formed between the women from the communities and the staff from UNAMG. It was also amazing to see the all female legal team that sat in court that week representing these women and what this historic moment meant for women in Guatemala and women and people all over the world.
I sat through a meeting prior to the first court hearing where tasks and duties were being delegated and I saw how determined everyone in the office was in ensuring that the women receive the proper attention and support. Regardless of the attention and the stressful situation they were all in, they were always so pleasant and inviting. Although I spent less than a month with this wonderful organization I learned what it means to stand in solidarity regardless of the outcomes and implications it may have and that giving everything you have for what you believe in when seeking justice can achieve great things. I was very sad when I left UNAMG in October and didn’t realize how much being there meant to me until that day but luckily I have realized that this lessons I learned will not be forgotten neither will the wonderful , dedicated people that work there and I don’t know when I’ll be back but I hope it’s soon.
For more information see: Army’s Former Sex Slaves Testify in Guatemala.