16 Days: Guatemala

By Dana Fleitman, JWI Program Coordinator

Norma Cruz, photo courtesy of State Department

Norma Cruz, photo courtesy of State Department

Violence against women is at epidemic levels in Guatemala. Guatemala has one of the highest murder rates in the world, particularly along drug trafficking routes that lead from South America into the United States. Decades of war, a strong patriarchal culture, poverty and widespread impunity contribute to a violent environment, and the numbers of women who are brutally murdered are rising each year.

Norma Cruz is a strong activist working tirelessly to reduce violence against women as well as support and seek justice for female victims of violence. In 1999, Cruz’s daughter was the victim of sexual violence; Cruz was increasingly outraged as she sought justice for her daughter and found that sexual abuse was dismissed and ignored by the legal system. In 2003, she founded Foundacion Sobrevivientes (Survivors Foundation), a non-profit that protects and pursues justice for victims of violence.

Cruz’s Foundacion Sobrevivientes has assisted in finding, prosecuting and convicting over 30 individuals accused of murdering women. The organization shelters abuse victims, seeks legal recourse for women and advocates for reform. Despite facing intense personal risks, Cruz perseveres in ending the culture of impunity and improving the lives of women in Guatemala.

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