Why I love my job :)
Caption (Activists in Guatemala, Justicia para mi Hermana)
As I’ve mentioned, Survivors Connect has partnered with various grassroots organizations around the world to develop innovative programs to combat GBV and TIP with the power of ICT. Today, I reconnected with one of our favorite projects, “Mensajes de Paz” (which means Messages of Peace in Spanish) in collaboration with Justicia Para mi Hermana (Justice for My Sister, JFMS). JFMS is a 70-minute documentary about violence against women in Guatemala. At its core, Justice for my Sister is a David versus Goliath story. A courageous woman named Rebeca takes on a giant system to demand answers for her sister's brutal murder and she has all the odds stacked against her - yet her resilience and power is unstoppable.
Violence against women, and specifically femicide (gender-based killing) is an epidemic in Guatemala: nearly 6000 women have been murdered in the last decade and only 2% of the killers were sentenced. This film documents one of the few successful cases from beginning to end. The director, Kimberly Bautista is also a survivor of GBV and has turned her experience of survival as her driving force to address this problem at large in Guatemala. She reached out to SC to ask for help about ways to extend the impact of her film screenings, which were taking place in various villages and communities to raise awareness. We partnered to create Mensajes de paz, which does two key things: audiences can subscribe to the service to receive news, tips, updates, and inspirational quotes on how to prevent violence and other activities related to the film on a bi-monthly basis, all via mobile and text messaging.
Audience members have responded positively to the bulk messaging and text back affirmatives and from time to time, the colloquial equivalent to "Right on!" ("A huevo!"). It also allows women to communicate directly with the JFMS team via text and call for referrals or advice on how to address GBV, report threats and get support. We receive messages from women asking how to leave their aggressor and one of our operators said, “The most important thing is to be set on leaving. Remember to take your personal documents, telephone, and cash." She also suggested spending a week or two in a transitional women's shelter, since most aggressors will look for their partners at her family's house once she has left, and she provided her with a local reference.
This is one of the reasons I love my job. This sort of basic advice-line/service is so rarely available in places like Guatemala. Not only is JFMS doing serious awareness with this film, but also delivering a new resource to people, all via mobile and is making an impact. I visited Guatemala back in November 2011 to help design the program with Kim. The project is still running strong and we’re now strategizing about how to raise funds to scale the project, take the film screenings to new communities, hire additional staff, and improve technical capacity.