Since the moment I had my interview to participate in the Sister-to-Sister Mentorship Program, and then learned I was selected, I started to plan everything. I had never been to Canada before, but my mom had when she was 15 years old. She won a prize for being a good student and she fell in love with Canada.
I wasn’t sure about the content of the program. Some words were kind of new for me–“International Advocacy” was one of them. But then I started to understand that the work I am doing–connecting people, creating networks, and sharing information–was part of it.
While I was in Canada I met amazing woman that work on radio stations and do journalism focused on human rights. I also spoke at huge forums with hundreds of people. I was able to talk about my story, the situation of indigenous women of Guatemala, and about the massacre that my community suffered by military forces in 2012. In these spaces I connected with other networks of human rights defenders, lawyers and activists. Strong women that now are sending me new information about legal strategies to help women human rights defenders in danger.
When I came back to Guatemala, my colleagues asked about my experience with Nobel Women’s Initiative, and how my experience will help others. We started building new networks that we can use in cases of emergency. For example, in the case of a woman from “La Resistencia” in San Juan Sacatepéquez, a small town close to Guatemala City. Bárbara Díaz was arrested and put into jail because she is leading an huge opposition movement against a cement company that wants to build a mine inside her community. As soon as she was arrested my partners and all community communicators activated our network to release an international alert about her situation. We are still working for her freedom. We now we have the support and advices of human rights institutions.
The situation of women human rights defenders and journalists are getting tougher, especially with the elections on the way. Since the beginning of 2015 more than 30 journalists have been attacked, and the number of women human rights defenders that have been prosecuted or have received threats is growing. I hope we can keep working together to protect the women who defend our rights. Bárbara is only one of many.
I find that even if Guatemala and Canada are part of the same continent, our stories and our struggles are unknown by a lot of people. We are facing similar issues. We are defending our right to have a healthy and green mother earth. We are fighting to end patriarchy. So that made me think about how this system is oppressing everyone that wants a fair world, no matter where they are.
The most important thing about international advocacy is being able to make new friends. Connect with people not just with for work but also with our feelings and solidarity.
Andrea joined us in Ottawa for the 2014 Sister-to-Sister Mentorship Program. She completed six weeks of communications and advocacy training alongside two young women activists from South Sudan and Sudan. Andrea is now continuing her work to defend women’s rights in Guatemala.