OPSEU member Geri Kakeeway, Indigenous Circle Representative from Region 7, travelled to Guatemala with Horizons of Friendship (www.horizons.ca) February 6 – 18, 2017. The OPSEU Social Justice Fund, as an expression of international Indigenous solidarity, asked the Indigenous Circle to select one of its members to participate in the Horizons of Friendship tour to network with its Indigenous partners in Guatemala.
Horizons of Friendship, has worked with over 130 grassroots organizations in central America, including Guatemala. It is committed to promoting social justice, human rights and grassroots community development. Participants visited five partner projects.
- The Association for Health Promotion, Research and Education (PIES) promotes the right to health for Indigenous people in Guatemala.
- The Guatemalan Intercultural Highlands Association (AMIGAS) promotes development projects that will benefit women and families, including maternal health in rural areas.
- The Santa Maria Linguistic Project (PLSM) advocates for bi-cultural and intercultural language education.
- The Women’s Association for the Development of Sacatepequez (AFEDES) was founded to strengthen Indigenous Kak’qchickel women's capacity to develop, promote and protect their cultural identity and promote the preservation of their ancestral medicinal knowledge based on sustainable agriculture and soil recuperation to achieve food security.
- The Observatory on Health, Education and Nutrition of Quetzalenango (OSARS) is a strategic alliance of civil groups such as midwives, doctors, psychologists, community leaders and students within the department[i] of Totonicapan to monitor and enforce legal frameworks regarding the rights of women and children; They create alliances with NGO’s and other social justice organizations, like Horizons of Friendship, to advocate for quality health, education and justice.
"Horizons of Friendship, together with local grassroots organizations, move the country towards incremental social justice within its borders. On a personal level, as an Anishinaabe woman, there was a strong connection to the Indigenous Mayan people I met. The historical and contemporary struggles of cultural, linguistic and spiritual loss then revitalization and resurgence touched me at the core of my being; these were my brothers and sisters. Their struggles and strengths were mine and I KNEW them as kin." — Geri Kakeeway, Indigenous Circle Region 7 Representative.
[i] “Department” is a word equivalent to “province” in Canada.