Empowering girl survivors of violence in Guatemala

By Nina Ford | April 23, 2019 | The Americas | Education, Freedom from Violence & Exploitation, Gender Equity, Youth Empowerment

In the face of extreme challenges, ASOGEN is working toward justice and equality for hundreds of girls who have experienced gender-based violence in Guatemala.

Intimidation. Slashed tires. Homemade bombs. These are threats that Asociación Generando Equidad, Liderazgo y Oportunidades (ASOGEN) faces as it works toward justice for girls who have survived gender-based violence in Chimaltenango, Guatemala.

After our local partner ASOGEN helped convict men who had committed sexual violence in 2015, an angry perpetrator threw six bombs at the organization’s office. Four exploded, setting off a fire outside. Luckily, no one was hurt and two fire trucks nearby were able to save the facility.

Last year, the government refused to pay ASOGEN staff working at a center for female survivors of violence. It promised to fund their salaries but never sent the money. The organization gathered enough funds to make up for the overdue paychecks – but had to cut its staff in half.

In the face of these extreme challenges, ASOGEN is courageously defying the odds.

August 2018 visit to ASOGEN in the aftermath of Volcan de Fuego
ASOGEN staff at the site of volcano relief efforts.

United by the belief that equality and opportunity are possible, the organization hasn’t wavered in its commitment to the hundreds of women and girls it serves. Its staff continue standing up to adversity, taking perpetrators of violence to court and empowering those who have survived. And successful strategic litigation is just one piece of its work.

ASOGEN’s political advocacy with decision-makers helped establish both its comprehensive care center – which provides medical services, legal aid, psychosocial support, and education – and a shelter in Chimaltenango to protect girls and women experiencing violence. It’s the only organization at the state level to provide differentiated care to address child and adult survivors’ unique needs.

Lesli Dalila Ovando Muñoz, President of the Board at ASOGEN, before receiving the Courage Award at the 2019 Global Philanthropy Forum.

“At ASOGEN, in addition to supporting women who have survived sexual abuse, we also have a strategic approach toward youth empowerment,” said Lesli Dalila Ovando Muñoz, President of the Board at ASOGEN. “[In workshops for children and youth], we explore themes related to sexual and reproductive rights, teen pregnancy prevention, and violence prevention.”

The organization’s individual and group therapy for girls who have survived violence helps them overcome trauma and empowers them to embrace their equality, sexual and reproductive autonomy, and human rights. Its program “Semillero” promotes girls’ involvement in community leadership, the workforce, university education, and decision-making, supporting them to generate structural change in their own lives, their families, and their communities.

“We have a group of teen moms who might not be able to continue their education, but we give them incentives to pursue vocational skills so they can continue forward,” Lesli added.

For ASOGEN, “courage means working despite the risks and dangers involved.” And this bravery, resilience, and passion in the fight for children and adolescent’s rights is why we named ASOGEN one of the first-ever winners of our Juliette Gimon Courage Award on April 2 at the Global Philanthropy Forum.

“For ASOGEN, winning this award is very important. We are extremely grateful because it represents ASOGEN’s work — and of course it gives us the initiative to keep fighting and continue working toward justice for all children and youth in Guatemala,” Lesli said.

ASOGEN speaks at the 2019 Global Philanthropy Forum.
Lesli speaks at the 2019 Global Philanthropy Forum.

Global Fund for Children gives the annual Courage Awards through the Juliette Gimon Fund for Courageous Leadership ­– a more than $1 million endowment made possible by William and Flora Hewlett Foundation and other donors – in honor of Juliette Gimon. The awards recognize innovative grassroots organizations around the world that are positively impacting children in especially challenging circumstances.

ASOGEN, together with Courage Award winner Mavi Kalem, were among 12 award finalists who have endured bomb threats, stood up to the Taliban, and defied deeply engrained practices like female genital mutilation and child marriage. The winners have channeled adversity into their causes, pursuing justice for children worldwide.

Lesli with her colleague Leivy Suyuc Velasquez and with Gamze from Mavi Kalem, the other recipient of the Courage Award.
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Global Fund for Children (GFC) UK Trust, created in 2006, is a UK registered charity (UK charity number 1119544). We work to generate vital income, create new fundraising opportunities, and raise awareness of the invaluable work of GFC’s grassroots grantees. Our aim is to extend the reach of GFC in the United Kingdom, Europe, and beyond.

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