At right: Women from the San Martín Chiquito community were among the 50 who have participated in workshops focused on issues including thwarting domestic violence.
Domestic violence is believed to occur in nine out of 10 homes in rural Guatemala. This includes the San Martín Chiquito area that is currently Xela AID's focus. Women and children tend to be the victims of domestic violence, and research shows that the damage is far-reaching; children from such homes tend to abuse their own spouses and children.
To begin to address this difficult issue, Xela AID has called upon local experts to staff conference and lend ongoing support. The organization has held two conferences involving approximately 50 women. Among the groups were midwives, weavers, traditional healers, and those involved with local church groups. As a requirement of attendance, each woman selected agreed to share what she learned in the group setting with other women within a month of the conference.
Each conference hosted the women off-site for three days with expert speakers on topics that included:
• Thwarting Domestic Violence
• Social Services Available to Women
• Knowing Your Legal Rights
• Legal Resources for Women
• Family Planning
During sessions on thwarting domestic violence, experts worked with the women in "psychodrama" sessions to act out situations that were occurring in the home. The experts used the information revealed to development the women's skills at de-escalating violent situations. The women were also taught about the power of being organized, and of the power of group visits to a violent home. Since perpetrators tend to be more violent when they believe their acts will go unnoticed and unpunished, such visits send a message that women at risk are part of a larger group and will not be fogotten.
Xela AID continues its work in this area through the support of women's groups (particularly, organized midwives and weavers), which, besides organizing around a specialty, act as support groups for women who are in abusive situations at home. The doctor at Xela AID's Clinic commonly makes referrals for expert assistance, and there is much more to be done.
The organization will expand its work in this area as resources become available.