So Far, So Close: WRN Heads to Antigua, Guatemala


Civil society leaders and peace activists from across the Americas came together to form a new network dedicated to working for women’s rights, peace, and justice in the region. November 2017, Antigua, Guatemala

Earlier this November, a small WRN team had the privilege of being present at a gathering of women peace activists, mostly from Central America. They were meeting in Antigua to share their experiences and explore the possibility of working together—possibly in a network like ours. We were there to share WRN’s journey—and certainly, to learn from them about their contexts, their lives and their work.

We sat in Antigua, Guatemala’s fairy-tale surroundings, watched over by active, smoldering volcanoes—daily, visible reminders of how quickly we ourselves move from something-like-peace to violent hostilities.

Over three days, regional activists shared their views on sites of security and insecurity, especially across three themes chosen by the organizers—land, militarisation and violence against women. They brought their stories together to build a regional narrative context for future partnerships. We heard in depth about the experiences of Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria. Colombian activists shared with us their role in putting together the peace accord and reflected on why the accord was rejected in the referendum. Honduran activists shared a petition asking for an impartial investigation into Berta Caceres’ murder and for justice.

Pictured left to right: Bushra Gohar, Pakistan - WRN Global Advisor and former Member of Parliament; Swarna Rajagopalan, India - WRN Board Member and founder of Prajnya; Sofi Ospina Collazos, Colombia - Leading feminist activist and instrumental actor in Colombian Peace Process; Deborah Petersen Smalls, USA - Lawyer and thought leader on the impact of punitive drug policies on poor communities of color; Maria Luz Mendez Gutierrez, Guatemala - Leading activist and only woman to participate in Guatemalan peace negotiations; Amarilis Pagan Jimenez, Puerto Rico -Attorney and feminist activist. October 2017,Antigua, Guatemala

Speaking for myself, this immersion was invaluable. One can read about other places but most of us—however cosmopolitan our worldview—do not have a chance to meet people from faraway places. Over these three days, it became impossible to think of any of the participants as strangers or any of their countries as impossibly distant—which they are to us in South Asia. The future of the Americas network—or whatever they choose to set up—became something that mattered to us as well. After all, we share the same insecurities—and aspire to the same solutions: an equal share and a gender-just peace.

Like the Mujeres y Seguridad: Construyendo la Paz en las Américas Facebook page to stay up to date on developments from this incredible group.

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