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Women Narrate Their Stories of Healing and Resistance

#Blog#Human Rights Defense
March 2022


In honor of Women’s History Month, we are uplifting the work of the Martín-Baró Initiative (MBI) and celebrating some of the many ways that women have used their voices — both through telling stories as a form of healing and building relationships toward political resistance within and across the movements they lead.

MBI provides resources through which women integrate human rights to foster community health and wellbeing, particularly among those deeply affected by political repression, structural violence, economic marginalization, and social injustice.

These stories are reflected in the different projects that MBI supports. Since 2009, Colectiva Actores de Cambio (“the Actors of Change Collective”) has promoted healing and justice for Mayan women in Guatemala. These women are survivors of sexual crimes and gendered racialized violence committed during and in the wake of the Guatemalan armed conflict, a war in which the US government played a major role.

A new book, Beyond Repair? Mayan women’s Protagonism in the aftermath of Genocidal Harm, powerfully describes their work, including many of the experiences of survivors of sexual violence who sought justice. MBI member, M. Brinton Lykes, and her colleague, Alison Crosby, accompanied the 54 Mayan survivor-protagonists through feminist participatory and action research. They documented the transformative power of women using creative practice — including dramatic play, drawing, and storytelling to share their experiences of racialized gendered violence — as they also sought redress for these violations.

Likewise, through Buena Semilla (“Good Seed”), also in Guatemala, women’s circles created by and for rural Mayan women survivors of gender-based violence have strengthened their sense of agency and created safe spaces for self-expression.

Other women’s initiatives beyond Guatemala that the MBI supports include:

In Brazil, Comissão Pastoral da Terra’s “From Banzo to Healing: Facing Pain through the Eyes of Women,” works with women from communities accompanied by the CPT, using psychological care and group experiences to strengthen their community autonomy and resistance.

Based in New York City, Domestic Workers United is a collective of Caribbean, Latina, and African women that uses story shares to build the power of women to fight for themselves and to end the exploitation of domestic workers.

And, Kebethache’s “Building Women’s Resilience Through Trauma Healing” project in Nigeria promotes holistic health through trauma healing processes in three areas that have endured violence and conflict in the last five years. Components include counseling and storytelling sessions to heal shared trauma, together with various social, mental, emotional, and physical health treatments.

We salute these examples of traditional and transformative women’s practices. These women have created crucial spaces to expose violations of their rights, share these stories, and accompany each other towards healing and well-being — all while building movements to build the world to live in freedom and justice.

Please learn more about these projects or consider making a donation to the work. As these projects show, healing and women’s liberation are inseparable — and need all our solidarity and support.

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