Meet Maria from Guatemala.
Maria Morales Jorge, a 52 year old Mayan-K’iché who grew up in Chichicastenango, Guatemala, was taught that a woman’s place was in the home, and that only men should be educated and go out to work. She knew this wasn’t right. In spite of the challenges and discrimination, as well as threats to her personal safety, she is determined to change what’s normal and encourages other indigenous women to join her.
“Indigenous people, particularly women, have suffered some of the worst political violence in Guatemala’s recent history. Despite the civil war being over, we still face violence in our daily lives.
I wasn’t able to have a formal education – school was too far and dangerous to get to, the education system suppressed indigenous languages and cultures, and my family believed that sending daughters to school would undermine our culture. So I was just taught how to weave and look after the home.
As a child, I remember being told that girls were not equal to boys; that we should stay at home and rely on the men to earn a living. I didn’t understand why it had to be like this. As I got older, I realised I was being held back by my inability to read and write, so I began to learn and decided to study law. I learnt about the rights of women and indigenous people, and it became even clearer that as women we have the right to participation – but gender and racial discrimination and machismo are obstructing our rights.
First we need to learn to value ourselves in order to break the chains of oppression, humiliation and violence. I now work, showing that women can earn money and don’t need to depend on a man. I also support other women to become leaders in their communities and to campaign for changes in local and national law. I’m proud of being part of the call to set up the Institute for the Defence of Indigenous Women which fights to protect the rights of indigenous women in Guatemala today.
We all have the opportunity to change and reject any violence and oppression. We should all have the chance to be happy.”