March 8th was International Women’s Day. La Direción Municipalidad de la Mujer (The Municipal Administrative Office of the Woman) hosted a large event in our town in honor of International Women’s Day, although it was held on March 9th due to scheduling conflicts with another large event with the same theme. The event was held at a local recreation center (see the pool in the background) and the invited guests were indigenous women from our town and surrounding communities.
Martina Velasquez, Director of the Dirección Municipalidad de la Mujer, and her awesome staff and volunteers, did a great job of coordinating the logistics of the event. Over 200 women and children attended and there were many representatives from local organizations that participated. Martina had generously invited me and my colleague, Miho, from JICA, to speak at the event. Miho went a step further and arrived in her beautiful traditional Japanese garb.
We were given fifteen minutes each to speak. Miho gave a short introduction to herself and her work as a JICA volunteer. I gave a talk on “The Four Keys to Self-Empowerment.” Can you tell I’m from California? The four keys to self-empowerment as I laid them out, are one’s voice, truth, breath and heart. I spoke about the importance of each key and led them in a short breathing exercise. Maybe the concepts were too Californian and not enough K’iche. But in crossing the cultural divide, one must try things and learn from one’s successes and mistakes. And if one is earnest and well meaning, it will count for a lot.
Afterwards, a woman gave me a big hug and gifted me with a handbag that she had woven and that had been for sale on the vendor’s table. It was such a blessing to meet her and to receive her gift. See photo.
The event was filled with actos. One was about domestic violence and another was about sexual assault. The dramatizations offered step-by-step instructions on what to do in the case of those emergencies. The actress that portrayed herself in crisis would visit a series of small tables with representatives from different agencies (police, hospital, health center, etc.). The representatives from each agency didn’t even have to act; they knew what to say in each situation. Watching the dramatizations helped women think about the choices they’d have to make and the information they’d need to declare. In the photo below, it’s hard to see, but an actress is laying on a stretcher while attendants offer her care.
During the event I walked around and met a few people. One was a woman selling handwoven goods. She showed me ribbons for the hair and to demonstrate, she had another woman braid the ribbons into a crown and place it in her hair. It was beautiful to watch.
There was also a raffle with a lot of giveaways. One women won for being the eldest in attendance. She was over 90 years old and very capable!
The event ended with lunch for everyone. I escorted the elder woman to the front to make sure she got served first. After everyone had been served and women were boarding buses for home, the staff rested amidst the empty pots and balloons that were being torn down by children who wanted to play with them. Marina (center in photo below) director, reina, capitana, super woman–she is all of those things. She and her team did a great job of honoring the women of this town.