Network for Migrant Girls meets again [photo essay]

By Maria Creamer | May 24, 2019 | The Americas | Education, Freedom from Violence & Exploitation, Gender Equity, Youth Empowerment

A misty fog flows above the sleepy city of Quetzaltenango, Guatemala, as our team finalizes last-minute preparations for this year’s Transnational Network for Migrant Girls convening. 

Nearly a year after the very first convening, we brought our Adolescent Girls and Migration Network partners back together to learn, co-create, and strengthen solidarity around our collective goal of championing migrant girls’ rights, opportunities, and voices.

There was no time to waste, so we kicked off the convening with a night of icebreakers, re-introductions, and creative brainstorming. The icebreakers did just that – break the ice. By the end of the activity, partners were roaring with laughter, clapping their hands, and feeling very much at ease.

The floor then branched into spaces for each organization to craft an artistic expression illustrating the core of its work. Partners shared drawings, poems, and even boxing demonstrations. The first night wrapped up with dinner and excitement for the following days.

The first full day of the convening started with the flickering of a white candle. Our locally based partner and co-host, Colectivo Vida Digna, began the convening with powerful words around tranquility and collective energy, lighting a candle as a symbol for this tone of camaraderie and togetherness.

The group used this energy to then reflect on the last convening, and on the purpose for our re-gathering. GFC’s Program Officer for Mexico and Central America, Rodrigo Barraza, led the conversation, highlighting and celebrating the network’s response to the migrant caravan and emerging collaborations.

Participants then dived into documenting migrant girls’ realities. A core exercise that bridged and connected our partners’ diverse work was the exploration of the migratory cycle – origin, transit, destination, and return – and the unique challenges and triumphs experienced by girls. 

The activity also created space for some participants to share their own migration story, which provided a real look into how individuals – including youth – feel at different stages of this journey.

After enjoying some downtime during lunch, the whole group walked the quick route from our hotel to Vida Digna’s office. The walk gave the group some time to take in Quetzaltenango’s charm and cool air.

Upon arriving at Vida Digna’s office, the sound of drums and a marimba (a traditional Guatemalan instrument, similar to a xylophone) filled the air with rich Mayan music. Vida Digna’s team members beamed with pride and joy as they welcomed their peers and new friends to their space.

During our time at the office, Vida Digna staff shared the two core elements of their work: migrants and culture. One staff member, known lovingly as Don Carlos, explained how the foundation of the organization’s work is rooted in the spiritual and cultural traditions of the indigenous communities it serves.

The group was all smiles at the end of the night.

On the last day of the convening, we piled onto shuttle buses in the early morning, making our way to an ecological park an hour outside the city. Participants breathed in the fresh mountain air, sitting in small groups creating space for collective self-care. Participants reflected on what and who gives them hope and support in the face of the inhumanity they far too often see in their daily work.

“I’m happy that I was able to link more with this theme of migration, and was able to share strategies and perspective with national and international organizations who are the first line of defense for migrant people.” – Convening participant

That afternoon, the entire group made its way up a lush green mountain to participate in a Mayan ceremony. The ceremony was a powerful testimony to indigenous migrants’ connection to nature, ancestry, and the universe.

Partners said farewell over dinner, and each took home a children’s book that tells the stories of migrant children. The convening was an important reminder that partners are not alone in this work, and it was an energizing source of inspiration for us all to return home to continue the fight for equality and justice with, and for, migrant girls.

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