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Sarah Dickson

Ambassador to Guatemala (June 2012 - June 2015)

Part of UK in Guatemala

15th November 2012

Listening to the voices of women (and men)

I have spent the past few days talking about women. In some ways it feels unfortunate to still be talking about women’s role in society in the 21st century but we shouldn’t underestimate the challenges that remain in all countries to achieve gender equality and respect between the sexes.

What was interesting about the meetings I have had recently is that the debate wasn’t around men and women in a “them and us” way but in a very specific, practical way to improve where differences remain.

They also all involved both men and women working together to address some of the key challenges. Here are some examples of what I mean:

  • I gave a speech as part of Corporate Social Responsibility week in Guatemala at the event around the role of women in business. I was told that to be a woman and from indigenous communities put you in one of the most vulnerable categories of Guatemalan society.So it was inspiring to hear how women’s cooperatives are making a difference to employment creation in rural areas. And that men in the communities have been helping break down the barriers to their participation. One example is the Cooperativa de Mujeres 4 Pinos, which is part of Cooperativa Agrícola Integral de Cuatro Pinos . England was one of the first markets they exported to, back in 1985 when they started with international trade operations.The women’s only cooperative supplies the main cooperative with high quality vegetables for export markets.
  • A Honduran NGO, Jovenes Liderando Cambios, told me all about their work in supporting Lenca communities and the importance of  gender equality in that context, and how with empowerment and self belief, the women of the community can make positive transformations.This was also a case of both men and women making that difference together.
  • I attended a World Bank sponsored event to use technological advances to  help deal with problems of domestic violence. This was just the first step but the brainstorm of the different ways you could improve everything from the reporting of crimes to changing cultural attitudes was impressive.Not least due to the variety of actors from all areas of society –  government, companies, NGOs, academia etc – that were involved and could provide their unique perspective on the issues and solutions. In this context we spoke to Jovenes por Guatemala about how to keep working with them on raising the profile of domestic violence prevention.
  • UN Population Fund officials based in Guatemala and I shared ideas on the challenges of making family planning advice more available and agreed that the work in July of this year, between UNFPA, UK’s Department for International Development and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, to raise over $4 billion in funding commitments had been an amazing achievement. Again partnership had been the key to success.
  • My team attended an event organised by the European Union here to promote Human Rights Defenders, who act in defence of civil, political, social, economic and gender-based rights.

The British Embassy will carry on working on these issues and we are happy to hear from organisations who can help increase our understanding further. Please remember to follow us on Twitter (@UKinGuatemala) and on Facebook (British Embassy Guatemala City).

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