GUATEMALA – A group of volunteer advocates in Guatemala City is protecting children and demanding action from leaders in their community. They advocate from a place of empathy and are part of My Story Matters (Mi Historia Importa, MHI), a group for adult survivors of sexual violence they suffered as children.
The group holds space for survivors to share stories with one another and as a means of advocacy to end violence against children. As the name implies, the group empowers members to view their personal stories as powerful tools that can create real change. There are currently over 80 members, with about a dozen trained as leaders and spokeswomen.
MHI members have advocated as a group in public settings, and in closed-door government officials. In 2018, one MHI member joined IJM at an event at the Ministry of Education to encourage teachers to report instances of child sexual assault. The MHI member, herself a teacher, shared her story of having suffered sexual violence as a child, describing her inability to find an adult who was willing to help her file a report to the police. She called on each teacher to take a stand for their students and to pursue formal reports when a child in their classroom has been victimized.
Jakelin Mayen is on staff with IJM as the Coordinator of Survivor Network; she is also a founding member of the Global Survivor Network Leadership Council. She traveled to the U.S. last year to advocate for legislation that would build capacity of Central American governments to combat violence, and she shared her personal story and charged 300 Americans to take seriously their responsibility as advocates.
These direct engagements between policymakers and survivor leaders are opportunities to reverse a “silencing” that Jakelin describes as a pain that motivates her to engage in advocacy. She adds “I know that as survivors, we all share the same feeling of wanting to protect others, and voices are stronger together. And if these voices come from survivors that have experienced violence themselves, they have much more authority and power.”
More information, in Spanish, about MHI is available here: https://www.mihistoriaimporta.org