International Women's Day 2018: Working Towards Gender Parity

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In the wake of women's equality fuelled movements like #MeToo and #TimesUp, International Women’s Day will use this year’s celebration of women to call for continued actions to achieve gender parity through their theme: #PressforProgress. Since 1911, International Women’s Day has served as a time to bring communities together to demand greater gender equality. Over one hundred years later, people around the world continue to march on March 8th to call for greater gender inclusivity despite a great breath of challenges.

One of these challenges is the issue of gender parity, or equal opportunities for women and men regardless of their gender. Women around the world continue to face inequality due to systemic gender discrimination. Access to equal pay, access to equal education, access to equal rights; these are all changes women around the world continue to experience. #PressforProgress symbolizes the need to press for real change for women by advocating against these inequalities.

Gender parity is one of the key factors that Horizons of Friendship focuses on in their mission to eliminate root causes of poverty and inequality in Central America and Mexico. Women in the region continue to face substantial levels of violence and femicide, poverty, and lack of rights that ensure their wellbeing and survival. These issues are especially harmful for Indigenous and Afro-descendant women that face a high degree of discrimination for their ethnicity. Horizons of Friendship is committed to #PressforProgress by ensuring better rights and protections of women's rights in this region.

There are many factors that contribute to lack of gender parity for women in Central America and Mexico, with most relating to the longstanding inequality between the working class and the elite since the first colonizers arrived. This legacy of injustice is especially apparent in the lives of women, as they continue to be devalued and dehumanized, with little political will and few efforts to protect their rights.

There is a great need for education, advocacy and protection of women’s rights throughout Central America and Mexico. Horizons partners with several local organizations that address the unique needs of women in their communities by implementing a variety of strategies to improve recognition and respect for their rights.

We believe our partners are exceptional champions in advancing gender parity so we would like to feature how these organizations #PressforProgress in Central America and Mexico:

 Indigenous women learn to weave textiles using a backstrap loom at AFEDES' Weaving School in Sacatapéquez, Guatemala.

Indigenous women learn to weave textiles using a backstrap loom at AFEDES' Weaving School in Sacatapéquez, Guatemala.

AFEDES (Women’s Association for the Development of Sacatepéquez)

In Guatemala, AFEDES promotes the political participation and social empowerment of Indigenous women through capacity-building projects for women of all ages. They provide human rights training, and education for families on women’s right to a life free from oppression, discrimination, exclusion and violence. Currently, AFEDES is educating Indigenous Kaqchikel women on traditional weaving, a meaningful practice for Indigenous peoples of Guatemala. These classes allow women to enhance their skills and make creations they can sell to generate an income for their families. Furthermore, AFEDES is working to organize weavers in networks in order to strengthen their ability to defend their collective intellectual rights since corporations have been appropriating their designs for their own profit.

 A PIES Health Educator facilitates a health workshop on planning for health emergencies with Maya K'iche' women in rural Totonicapán. 

A PIES Health Educator facilitates a health workshop on planning for health emergencies with Maya K'iche' women in rural Totonicapán. 

PIES (Association for Health Promotion, Research and Education)

In the majority Indigenous Maya K'iche' Department of Totonicapán, Guatemala, 147 out 100,000 women will die during childbirth - 18x the rate of women in Canada. To address these alarming rates of maternal mortality, PIES is working to improve health care services for Maya K'iche' women as well as advocating for greater recognition and respect for Indigenous women's rights. A key part of these efforts is PIES ongoing work with more than 1,000 Indigenous traditional midwives to complement their knowledge with training in the latest maternal, newborn and child health practices. Additionally, Health Educators with PIES will also continue to work with pregnant women, new mothers, male partners and extended family members in rural Indigenous communities to provide culturally-pertinent education and counseling support on breastfeeding, prenatal and newborn care, immunization, nutrition and breast and ovarian cancer – all in the Maya K’iche language spoken by the vast majority of Totonicapán’s residents. As well Health Educators will encourage respect and recognition of women’s rights in order to promote women’s equal participation in the decisions that affect their health.

 Members of ORMUSA join a march in San Salvador, El Salvador protesting violence against women.

Members of ORMUSA join a march in San Salvador, El Salvador protesting violence against women.

ORMUSA (The Organization of Salvadoran Women for Peace)

ORMUSA works to promote women’s rights and a life free of gender-based violence for Salvadoran women. Their current project is raising awareness amongst institutional authorities about the lack of protection for women in El Salvador's justice system. ORMUSA is seeking to improve female victims’ access to justice by providing sensitized legal services, and strengthening the capacity of feminist organizations in El Salvador and across Central America to raise awareness on gender violence.

 A women from Lower Lempa, El Salvador used her microcredit loan from ACUDESBAL to purchase chickens as a way to generate income for herself and her family.

A women from Lower Lempa, El Salvador used her microcredit loan from ACUDESBAL to purchase chickens as a way to generate income for herself and her family.

ACUDESBAL (Intercommunity Association of Communities Working Together for the Economic and Social Development of Lower Lempa)

ACUDESBAL was organized to assist in the socioeconomic development of rural families in the Lower Lempa region of El Salvador. Through their current project, ACUDESBAL aims to support self-employment opportunities for women and their families. It has established a rotating line of credit to empower women with the skills and tools to help themselves, and build better future for their families. 

 Members of MEC meet at a forum to discuss labour rights for women in Nicaragua.

Members of MEC meet at a forum to discuss labour rights for women in Nicaragua.

MEC (“Maria Elena Cuadra” Working and Unemployed Women’s Movement)

MEC is an autonomous women’s movement that aims for the inclusion and full participation of women in Nicaraguan society. To achieve these goals MEC works from a gender perspective to organise, educate and train women workers. Currently they are training and raising awareness among female maquila workers on gender and labour rights under Nicaraguan legislation through educational workshops. The project will also provide legal support through their legal office, accompanying both female and male maquila workers who have had their rights violated at their work.

 Members of AMICA participate in a march against violence against women in Puerto Cabezas, Nicaragua. Their banner reads: "On the 25th of November we celebrate a happy home, community and world without violence. Say no to violence." 

Members of AMICA participate in a march against violence against women in Puerto Cabezas, Nicaragua. Their banner reads: "On the 25th of November we celebrate a happy home, community and world without violence. Say no to violence." 

AMICA (Association for Indigenous Women of the Atlantic)

AMICA is a female-headed Indigenous-led organization working to improve the social and economic conditions of Indigenous Miskitu women living in remote communities on the North Atlantic Coast of Nicaragua. Currently they are scaling-up their efforts to educate and inform communities on sexual and reproductive health rights (SRHR) in response to the growing issues of teenage pregnancies, sexually transmitted infections (STIs) – including the recent increase of HIV/AIDS transmission - and gender violence seen through the Indigenous Miskitu communities on the North Atlantic Coast.

 Mother-Teachers and their children attend a professional development session.

Mother-Teachers and their children attend a professional development session.

OMMA (Organization of Mother-Teachers)

OMMA emphasizes that “every mother is a teacher” with the idea to always build the teaching methods from their realities, their knowledge as mothers, and their own cultures. OMMA’s early childhood education centres provide a setting where educative relationships between communities, mothers and children can be nurtured and where children may receive the best possible start to their early formation and development. Their current project supports the long-term development of women and children by strengthening the organizational capacity of OMMA to meet the current regional challenges it faces and support its expansion into communities lacking access to education.

TO DONATE TO THESE ORGANIZATIONS AND THE WOMEN THEY SUPPORT CLICK BELOW:

Hannah Matthews