This month has been a whirlwind of travel, events, and visitors. It was a good month for reflection, both on a personal level and in terms of the social/political reality of our world. Discussing the upcoming presidential election in Nicaragua, hearing about anti-union and anti-immigrant bills in the U.S., talking about budget cuts, facing the reality of women’s status in society, and learning about the situation of violence in El Salvador all played a significant role in my reflections over the last several weeks. One of the most important lessons I have learned during my time here is how there really isn’t separation between public and private. The issues affecting me in my “personal” life are the same ones affecting my job and the communities I’m a part of. Reflecting on this point of intersection is really reflection on how our actions and work for justice can be most effective.
I started out the month attending two events about women’s rights: a photography exhibit of Nicaraguan women who have been killed by males close to them (boyfriend, spouse, brother, close family friend, etc.) and a march for International Women’s Day. The photography exhibit was organized by the Women’s Network Against Violence, and was on display at various rotondas (traffic roundabouts) throughout the city on March 7. Along with photos of each victim, the exhibit highlighted the sickening statistic that, in 2010 in Nicaragua, 89 women were murdered by males close to them, and of those 89, nine were girls under 15 years of age. Along with speaking out against this violence, the “All Together, All Free” march and concert on March 8 also denounced authoritarianism, maternal death, femicide, exploitation, sex trafficking, unemployment, and unwanted pregnancies.
Then Greta and I were off to Guatemala and El Salvador for a VMM retreat and the Romero vigil. We spent three days high above the beautiful Lago Atitlan in Guatemala, and then three days in San Salvador building community with the volunteers there. The retreat’s structure was totally focused on story-sharing; each participant had one hour to share their mission experiences and reflect on the challenges and joys of living in mission. We learn so much from each other, and hearing about the experiences of others always strengthens our own work.
Walking along with participants of the Romero vigil on March 19, I was struck by how many young Salvadorans were marching and praying and shouting together. Although it has been 31 years since Romero’s assassination, his memory is alive in the Salvadoran people and today’s youth are continuing his struggle for justice. In light of Obama’s visit to El Salvador, vigil participants took advantage of the event to organize demonstrations for immigrants’ rights and peaceful and effective solutions to the gang and drug-related violence during Obama’s visit.
After arriving home from our one-week VMM hiatus, we welcomed the Friends of Batahola board for their annual visit to the CCBN. Their four days here were jam-packed with meetings, reflections, exchanges, and lots of joke-telling. One highlight was the cultural presentation they attended on March 25, with performances by the CCBN choir, orchestra, and dance group. Then, the next morning, the Friends were excited to see the same faces participating in a composite biography activity with them, where youth and Friends were able to share about their personal histories and experiences.
Also on March 26, the Gender-based Violence Prevention Project at the CCBN hosted a fair celebrating 100 years of defense and promotion of the human rights of women. Around 350 people participated in a morning of cultural performances and educational information in honor of International Women’s Day. Participants received t-shirts, posters, stickers, brochures, and other awareness-raising materials.