Women’s Justice Initiative (WJI) GUATEMALA
What I See
Guatemala experiences some of the highest levels of violence against women and girls (VAWG) and impunity in the world. In 99% of cases in which a woman faces violence, no legal action is taken against the perpetrator.
Indigenous women in rural areas experience disproportionately high levels of violence, while facing additional hurdles to accessing justice, such as discrimination and lack of services in their communities and in their native languages.
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Many women, especially survivors of violence, do not have the freedom to leave their communities and even fewer can afford transportation to seek services in urban areas.
WJI recognizes that VAWG is one of the most oppressive forms of gender inequality. As long as women continue to experience violence with impunity, they will never achieve equal participation with men in social, economic, or political spheres.
WJI works to achieve gender equality and combat impunity by increasing access to justice for indigenous women in rural communities, especially survivors of violence. We see this as a key tool in helping women lead healthy, happy lives.
We work holistically to help women reconstruct their lives and move forward, including by providing psychological counseling and legal services both in cases of violence and to secure their economic rights.
We also provide rights education courses, mobile legal outreach in remote communities, and leadership training. We work with local leaders and stakeholders to change community norms around violence. WJI works to ensure that women for generations to come have the skills and resources necessary to exercise their rights.
What I’m Proud Of
We have grown fast, but we have managed this growth. Since 2011, WJI has worked with over 19,000 direct beneficiaries and supported 1,700 legal cases, indirectly benefiting over 50,000 women and their families.
In 2019, we expanded into a second municipality, serving 4,000 more beneficiaries than in prior years, and managing a 31% increase in legal cases. 100% of women who have participated in WJI’s programs report that WJI has helped them feel stronger and safer.
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95% of women who have participated in our programs believe that WJI has helped them prevent violence in their lives.
WJI is also proud of the work of our Community Advocates, women who ensure the sustainability of WJI’s work by becoming leaders, women’s rights educators, and mentors to their peers.
These advocates multiply WJI’s impact by promoting gender equality in their communities and by accompanying women seeking legal services through the process. Our work would not be possible without them.
I Feel Happy When
Working towards gender equality can sometimes feel like a slow, daunting process. At WJI, we’ve developed community-based strategies that rapidly accelerate progress to end violence against women and permanently change social norms.
This gives us a lot to be happy about.
We feel pride and satisfaction when a woman gets a land title in her own name, securing her family’s economic wellbeing for future generations.
Or when a young girl decides to stay in school instead of leaving home to live with her boyfriend–something that a woman from her mother’s generation may not have even known was an option.
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No victory is too small for us to celebrate, because when a woman knows her rights and has the support to exercise them, her possibilities are endless.
From graduating from the Women’s Rights Education Program, to receiving retroactive child support, women participants and WJI are winning together.
We are especially proud when we hear from Community Advocates about how WJI has taught them to stand up for themselves and for other women in their communities.
Because of Advocates’ dedication to creating change where they live, we know our work will endure for generations after our programs end.
As one advocate told us, “I am a woman who is no longer afraid to confront the challenges in my life, in my family, and even in my community. I have discovered myself and know that I have value.”
When we think of the obstacles these women have already overcome and we imagine just how far they are going to go, we feel tremendous pride.
What’s Surprising Is
WJI is the only organization in Guatemala that provides mobile, Kaqchikel-language legal services directly to women in rural communities.
By literally meeting women where they are and speaking their native language, WJI is a trailblazer in breaking down barriers to justice.
WJI connects indigenous women to power structures from which they have traditionally been excluded. Through the innovative combination of outreach, training with diverse stakeholders, and service delivery, we transform societal norms that condone VAWG.
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WJI has grown rapidly since 2011, though we are still only able to serve a fraction of the Kaqchikel-speaking population.
As WJI expands to reach additional communities, we know that continuing to strengthen our operational capacity is key for success.
Building our leadership, monitoring and evaluation, and development capacity will ensure the long-term success of our programs and enhance our impact.
This focus is also important as WJI continues to invest in local leadership, building on the existing skills and capacity of our staff members.
While these organizational costs are often difficult to cover through traditional funding sources, we know they are a key element of WJI’s long-term sustainability and effectiveness.
A Direct Grant
Over 1 million people in Guatemala identify as ethnically Maya Kaqchikel. WJI is proud to have been able to reach over 57,000 Kaqchikel-speaking individuals so far, but we are not ready to stop there.
The need for WJI’s services remains huge in rural, indigenous communities, where VAWG is often tolerated and legal services are inaccessible.
Over the next 10 years, WJI aims to expand to serve over 100,000 women and girls in this region. Unrestricted funding is a critical tool in allowing us to grow our organizational capacity, invest in our staff members, and continue to bridge the gaps between existing social and legal services in rural communities.
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WJI’s staff members, the majority of whom are Maya Kaqchikel and from the communities we work in, are the heart and soul of our organization.
They lead programming, provide legal and psychological services, train Advocates and community leaders, and make strategic decisions.
With additional funding, WJI can invest in staff members and expand our programs to new communities.
As we expand, we hope to experiment and test out new models of our core programs, ultimately building towards long-term sustainable growth and increased effectiveness.
Want to Learn More
Make a Direct Grant?