Women's Voices Strong at the Americas Social Forum in Guatemala

Wow, what a week. It is hard to know where to start and exhaustion is setting in so my thoughts are all over the map. Perhaps I should begin by attempting to share some of the moments that stand out the most in my mind.

First off, one of the most exciting things that I have witnessed at the Social Forum of the Americas is the solidarity of women. Women all week and in all spaces have been sharing their experiences, marching for and demanding their rights, forging alliances, strategizing, telling each other “I support you in your fight” and ultimately strengthening each other’s voices by standing together. SO powerful. One young indigenous woman from Guatemala – maybe 14 years old and incredibly articulate for her age – told me that this meeting is so important because people from all countries have come together. She said that although rights for women exist, the reality is that they are not realized and that we need to come together, to fight together.

Another woman I spoke with a couple of days ago told me that she was so excited to be here because she was learning so much. For example earlier that morning she attended a session where the word feminism was used several times. She explained to me that the word feminism does not exist in her language but now that she has experienced its meaning firsthand, she is very proud to call herself a feminist.

One of the more provocative experiences this week has been witnessing a division among the Nicaraguan women participating in the forum. While so many women have come to Guatemala to bring international attention to the fact that government in Nicaragua is intimidating organizations and activists who are fighting for women’s rights, some women here are expressing support for Ortega’s government of the “left” because they believe he is for the people, a champion of social justice. It is difficult to comprehend how you can call yourself a feminist and at the same time support a government that puts women’s lives at risk by taking away their right to a therapeutic abortion. Fortunately the voices of hundreds of women calling for “Aborto legal “, and chanting “Nosotras parimos, nosotras decidimos” (We give birth, we decide) have been so predominant during this forum.

The most incredible part of this experience for me has been having the honor of being part of a team of remarkable women activists: Lian, Jackie, Crystal and Emely, who joined JASS for the first time here in Guatemala and whose dedication to their individual causes I admire so much; Ale, Ana and Lisa, who I am proud to call my colleagues and finally; the Petateras, some of whom have been fighting this fight for years and years and still with the same amount of passion, energy and devotion. You truly inspire me.