Thursday, March 8, 2012

International Women's Day

“You think we’re victims, because we cover our hair and wear modest clothing. But we think that it’s Western women who are repressed, because they have to show their bodies–even go through surgery to change their bodies–to please men.” - A female Saudi doctor interviewed in Half the Sky. (A pertinent, yet off topic, quote stolen from Megan Gokey.
Today is International Women's Day (IWD). For the occasion I had the pleasure of interviewing two incredible women from Chaquijyá, Delmy and Lidia. Delmy is the director of the new Basico school, El Instituto, in Chaquijyá Central that started just this year. Lidia teaches social studies in El Instituo (7th & 8th grades) alongside Delmy. Below are the consolidated transcripts from their interviews:

"Throughout the year there is a lot of discrimination but today, March 8th, we celebrate women especially, which makes everyone remember that we're important too. It's just a special day that the word 'woman' means something more. The rest of the days we suffer such hardships, and it's nice that we have one day where you have to think and talk about that. I consider it very important. MPI partnered with us to teach English in our Institute, which has 75% girls, and so together we are opening doors for all them. MPI is teaching English to all our students and that gives them all greater opportunities for the future that they wouldn't have had."

"We give March 8th to women because women give us all life. It's a showing of appreciation to women but it's not enough. However, at least we have one, and it's international! It's not just for the rich either, nor just for the poor, it's for all women of all social classes, because a woman is a woman. Here in Guatemala we don't really celebrate it, we tell each other "happy women's day," and sometimes it's on the radio or television, but that's it. Here in the school it'd be nice to celebrate it, but we haven't done it in the past. We need to help empower girls by showing them that they can do anything they want, that they aren't limited to the same lives their mothers have. That is such a problem, especially with Mayan women where there is so much discrimination and such a divide between the sexes, and between ladino Guatemalans (non-indigenous). Our reality is, we don't know our rights as women or as an indigenous people, so how can we defend our rights? It's a day to strengthen our self-esteem, or at least to start. Now we're uniting your cultures and our culture, cultivating a friendship, and you (MPI) don't discriminate and the kids can see that and learn from that. MPI is teaching English in the Institute which is so important for the kids to learn because many will go to the USA looking for work and this helps them, and others are just learning a love for learning."
We are lucky to work alongside Delmy, Lidia, and many other inspirational women on a daily basis in El Instituto, and in the other primary schools in Chaquijyá. Today especially we appreciate them, but it shouldn't stop at midnight. Through education and empowerment, we can work to promote the ideals of IWD everyday.

How are you celebrating?


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