From victim to community leader - one Guatemalan woman is taking a stand against violence against women

From victim to community leader - one Guatemalan woman is taking a stand against violence against women

Here I have learned to value myself and to make my own decisions.

Rafaela Cotzojay, from victim to women's rights advocate and community leader

CONTEXT

Around one in four women of reproductive age are thought to be victims of domestic violence in Guatemala. In 2013 alone 564 women were killed violently, with more than 7,000 women dying since 2000.

OBJECTIVES

  • To share knowledge and power to promote women’s rights and prevent violence against women

RESULTS

  • By helping to promote, protect and enforce the rights of indigenous women in Guatemala, the project has helped to reduce violence against women in 17 municipalities.

FACTS AND FIGURES

  • The project has provided culturally relevant psychosocial and legal support to 520 women survivors of domestic violence.
  • The project has trained 600 indigenous women in violence prevention.

TESTIMONY

Rafaela promotes the right of each woman to control her own body

Rafaela changed her life, with the help and knowledge acquired through specialised training sessions organised by the human rights NGO, CALDH (Centre for Human Rights Legal Action). Over time, and with the help of CALDH, she transformed from being a shy, abused and illiterate victim into the "mother of the community" and legal advisor that she is today.

Her dream has always been to get an education, and today she is on her way to completing her formal studies. She has also been nominated as a member of the Department Community Council (COCODE) and has worked as a trainer and facilitator for the EU project, "Sharing knowledge and power to promote women’s rights and prevent violence against women".

During the trainings on sexual and reproductive rights, Rafaela promotes the right of each woman to control her own body. She talks about her own experiences and the importance of understanding that "to enjoy sexuality, both (women and men) are important and both have to be satisfied".

Rafaela admits that the violence and discrimination she suffered previously made her "hate men". Yet the therapeutic help that she received has helped her to overcome this too. She also finds comfort in the knowledge and support she is now able to give other women facing similar challenges.