Looking back, it’s hard to even start to understand how important and even life-changing this experience was. In those six weeks in Ottawa I had the opportunity to learn new advocacy, media, lobbying and communication skills, to meet with politicians and local activists, to speak about the situation of women in Guatemala, to chat with Nobel Peace Prize laureates, and many other interesting people; but for me, the most important aspect of the program was the inspiration.
When you work in human rights, it’s easy to feel worried, overwhelmed, disappointed or even sad sometimes. It’s easy to feel like no matter how hard you try, things will never change and that everything is permanently falling apart. It’s easy to focus so much on the problem you usually work on, that you can forget to see the bigger picture.
For me, “to see the bigger picture” was a very valuable part of the Sister-to-Sister Mentorship Program. It was not a class we took, a conference we went to, or even something we specifically talked about; instead it was in everything we did.
By having the opportunity to meet and share with so many amazing people I had the chance not only to better understand the challenges women face in different countries but, most importantly, I had the chance to learn what they are doing to address those challenges and make the world a better place. It’s always amazing to feel connected with other women and be reminded that we are stronger when we stick together, respect and learn from each other.
There are a lot of things we all can do to help, and what we do can really make a difference. When I think of the thousands of international volunteers that have come to my country, the aid we have gotten to battle poverty, impunity and injustice, the investigations and international spotlighting that have allowed Guatemalans to let the world know when terrible human rights violations were being committed, or the numerous acts of solidarity we have received, I can really tell how important international solidarity has been to help so many Guatemalan people build a better future for our country.
I deeply appreciate how the activists, Members of Parliament and everybody we met, were so receptive to hear from Josephine, Su Su and myself. Being able to let people know about our countries’ current struggles and feeling their support and commitment to continue supporting us is just priceless.
For the future, I hope all of these new skills and experiences help me find the way to engage Guatemalan men and women more effectively in our cause, and contribute to the search for solutions to end the culture of violence against women that is harming all of us.
Gabriela was one of the Nobel Women’s Initiative Sister-to-Sister Mentorship Program participants in 2013. She has just returned home after spending six weeks in Ottawa with our team and two other young women’s rights activists from Liberia and Myanmar.
Read the Sister-to-Sister Mentorship Program blog to find out more about Gabriela’s experience in Canada.