March is Women's History Month!
Here at East Bay Sanctuary Covenant, we'll focus each week during March on women from the communities that EBSC serves. For this first week, starting on International Women's Day, EBSC is proud to spotlight the Mam Maya community of Guatemala.
We'd like to share one of their stories with you today, from a client named Graciela:
I'm an indigenous Mam Maya woman from Guatemala. Myself and my family suffered severe violence and injustices at the hands of the Guatemalan military, local police and government. I wanted to add my voice to the struggle for indigenous rights and I joined a group that fought for us. At the time that I made that decision, I was just 18 years old.
We fought for our land and supported each other. It felt good to be participating in something as a young woman and to feel like I was directly helping to make a difference. However, a group of men got wind of my participation in the group and came to my family's home in the middle of the night for several nights. They pounded on the door, guns in their hands, screaming that me and my family were stupid and dirty and that we should be killed. When I went and reported their threats to the Ministerio Publico (Public Prosecutor), the officials didn't respond at all.
Instead, the men returned to my family's home. They were furious that I went to the Ministerio Publico to report them. This time, they kicked the door down. The men wanted to kill me. They ordered me to leave my house, my land and my group. I refused. The men beat me with their rifles until I fell unconscious. My family could only helplessly watch what was happening in front of them. After everything was over, my family took me to the hospital. I was there for days.
I was terrified and went to live with a family member in a neighboring village. The men told my family that they'd be back for me in a week and this time they'd finish the job. In the middle of December of 2006, I fled to the United States. My father told me not to go. He said it was dangerous and I could die in the desert. I said that if I died in the desert, I died. If I stayed in Guatemala, those men would kill me. I entered the United States through the Arizona desert in the middle of January 2007.
In 2012, I went to EBSC's offices, because I heard that this organization helped women like me. Because of their care and commitment and kindness, I was granted asylum and now am a permanent resident of the U.S.
My life has been one of struggle and sacrifice. But I'm proud of the fact that as a young woman, I stood up to those men and found my strength in my family, my land and my community.
During these difficult political times, being able to make a difference in the lives of women like Graciela means everything to the EBSC staff, interns, volunteers and board members. We hope that it means a lot to you as well.
The East Bay Sanctuary Covenant Community
Note: Graciela's real name isn't being used in order to protect her identity.