It was almost a year ago that I got my “This is what a feminist looks like” button. It got it from my friend and carsick buddy Olivia when we were traveling through the Western Highlands of Guatemala. We were in the town of Xela on a brisk spring morning, waiting to meet with Neuvos Horizontes (New Horizons), a women’s advocacy group that works with victims of domestic violence.
The building where they worked was simple. A corrugated plastic roof let sunlight filter into the anteroom, where wooden benches stood on dark red tile. Posters on the walls painted a picture of the scale of violence and femicide that still plagues Guatemala and offered hope of change. I remember one in particular that showed a man unlocking a door and read (in translation): “I will no longer be afraid at the sound of his keys.”
Every year, hundreds of women are killed by their husbands in Guatemala. Many more are beaten or sold into the sex trade. No one knows how many sex slaves are transported along the Pan-American highway system that runs from Argentina to Alaska.
Things are bad for women in Guatemala. The machismo culture keeps women subservient to men; second class citizens in their own country. But there are glimmers of hope. Groups like Nuevos Horizontes provide transitional housing and vocational training for women. Women, not men, are in charge of the health clinic in the rural village of Pachaj. When I was there, Guatemala had even elected a female vice president.
Progress is slow, but on the way.
Still, it is easy to criticize the developing world for being slow to protect women’s rights. It is easy to point the finger, but we must also remember that the United States is not free of gender inequality. Women in our country are still beaten and still raped. Women still do not have wage equality with men. We still have such a long way to go.
It starts with each and every one of us changing our behavior. We can all stand up against violence and discrimination in our communities, our countries and our world. I support women’s rights and I hope that someday soon, no woman will have to live in fear. Someday soon, we will all be equal.
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I’m a writer and photographer in Flagstaff, AZ. I’m proud to be an advocate of equal rights and protection for all. In honor of International Women’s Day, I hope you’ll take a moment to learn more about how you can help end violence against women and that you might consider following me on the Twitter machine: @jonnyeberle.