Erica Morales is a strong woman – it just took her a while to realize it. For nearly 25 years, she endured verbal, mental, and physical abuse from her husband.
But not anymore.
When WINGS went to the municipality of Ciudad Quetzal, Guatemala in search of women to participate in its Voz Collectiva de Mujeres (Collective Voice of Women) Leadership Training course, we met Erica. After a conversation with WINGS staff member, Erica realized that she did not want to be stepped on any longer, and that she had options – a point of view that was new and exciting to her. She learned that, as a woman, she has a right to say “no”, she has a right to express her opinions, and above all, she has a right to be happy in her life.
|Erica, and women like her, are celebrated on International Women’s Day
In Guatemala, a male-dominated society, women often accept abuse from their partners because of ingrained social norms. In Erica’s case, she didn’t stand up to her husband because she feared retribution and also because she thought her husband’s behavior was normal in a marriage. The oppression of women in Guatemala has a long, deep-seated history. Women were frequently victimized sexually during Guatemala’s recent internal armed conflict, which lasted 36 years, from 1960 and 1996. Violence became embedded in a culture that continues to struggle with poverty, extreme inequality and disenfranchisement. Today, women are left behind in the development process: they earn only 41% as much as their male counterparts, only 8% of elected officials are women, and a staggering 45% have experienced abuse at some point in their relationships.
Now, Erica is planning a separation from her abusive husband, and will also be seeking legal reparations from him for the years that she has been held back. She wants to begin studying psychology at university, something she wasn’t previously allowed to do. In her leadership and advocacy training with WINGS, she is also learning how to lead other women in her community to advocate for their reproductive health and other rights.
Erica has a message that she would like to share with the scores of other Guatemalan women struggling with similar issues:
“Stay positive. Educate yourself. Change is coming but it must come organically, through us.”
On International Women’s Day, March 8th 2012, WINGS stands side-by-side with women in Guatemala like Erica – women who have voices and strength that need to be supported so that they can be agents for social change, not only in their own lives, but for their communities and their country.
To show your support for Erica, and women throughout Guatemala, please donate to WINGS today.