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Women Confronting Violence and Impunity in Guatemala, with Sandra Morán

From March 26-April 7, GHRC accompanied Sandra Morán on an east coast speaking tour.

Sandra Morán is a Guatemalan, lesbian, feminist, artist, activist for human rights and especially women’s rights, and a recent graduate of the School of Political Science from the University of San Carlos (USAC).

Since her youth, Sandra has struggled for social justice and equality for all Guatemalans. Sandra participated in the student movement in high school and then at the USAC. She is an accomplished musician, playing a strong role in the revolutionary music movement.

Sandra has worked with the Guatemalan women’s and feminist movement for the past 20 years. She lived in exile for 14 years, from 1980-1994; during that time, she built international solidarity for Guatemala, denouncing the grave violations of human rights (committed by the State of Guatemala in the 80’s).

In 1994, Sandra returned to Guatemala, precisely to participate in the formation of the Women’s Sector and to participate in the Civil Society Assembly at the negotiations for the Peace Accords (to end a 36 year war). The Women’s Sector is an alliance of 33 organizations throughout Guatemala.

In 1995 Sandra founded the first lesbian collective in Guatemala- We Are Women.

Since 1995 Sandra has lived permanently in Guatemala, and maintains ties to Canada.

As a representative of the Women’s Sector, Sandra was the driving force and founder of the National Women’s Forum, a body that generated participation and proposals for women’s public policy after the Peace Accords. She has been a representative of the Women in National Council for the Peace Accords- CNAP, a State institution where civil society interacts with the State, political parties, and the United Nations. CNAP has pushed for the fulfillment of the Peace Accords since 2006. In 2008 Sandra was elected sub-coordinator of the CNAP for two years.

In 2006, along with Andrea Barrios, Sandra founded Artisan House as an alternative meeting place for women and other diverse groups who face discrimination. It is an artistic space for developing sustainable and creative solutions to support Women Deprived of Freedom and their families.

Currently, Morán is part of the Collective of the Artisan House, an active member of the Women’s Sector, and a leader of the feminist movement and feminist thought in Guatemala. She maintains her artistic work and was a driving force and founder with Karla Lara from Honduras and Ana Carter of Costa Rica of the first Central American Feminist Band, Cantarte Vida (Singing Life to You). She maintains a network of social movements that strive for a new Guatemala, for everyone, female and male.

As part of the tour, Sandra spoke at:

Ecumenical Advocacy Days Conference, Virgina
Unitarian Universalist River Road, Bethesda, MD
Unitarian Universalist Church of Arlington, VA
Society for International Development, Washington Chapter
George Washington University
American University
Virginia Commonwealth University
University of Virginia, Charlottesville, VA
Shenandoah University, Winchester, VA
Temple University, Philadelphia, PA
Drexel University, Philadelphia, PA
West Chester University, West Chester, PA
College of New Jersey, Ewing, NJ
CUNY Law Clinic, Queens, NY
UN Human Rights Offices, NY, NY
Columbia University, NY, NY
Ithaca College, Ithaca, NY

Stop Femicide in Guatemala, with Norma Cruz
March 1-6, 2010


Watch a video of GHRC Director Amanda Martin and Norma Cruz speak at the University of Central Florida


Norma Cruz, co-founder and director of the Survivor’s Foundation in Guatemala City, is an internationally recognized advocate and activist for women who are victims of domestic and sexual violence, human trafficking, and illegal adoptions. She is one of eight women worldwide who received the “Women of Courage” award from Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in March 2009 (photo). Her work was born out of her personal struggle and has grown to provide legal, psychosocial, physical and political support for women survivors in a country where violence against women is prevalent and tolerated. Ms. Cruz has received death threats over the past several years, most recently in January 2010.

Ms. Cruz addressed:

  • Violence against women in Guatemala
  • Impunity for perpetrators of crimes
  • Steps needed to ensure women’s right to live

Goals for the speaker's tour:

  • To educate and inform diverse audiences in the U.S. on violence against women and impunity Guatemala.
  • To provide the audience with tools for action, to organize and prioritize U.S. funding of programs for women’s shelters and support for victims and families.
  • To increase awareness of GHRC’s work, build a stronger relationship with the audience members, in order to count on their support (actions, participation, donations, etc.) now and in the future.


"The Day That Changed My Life Forever": A Guatemalan torture survivor speaks out on violence and impunity.

Post-tour Updates

This October, GHRC accompanied Gladys Monterroso on a two-week speaking tour. Gladys Monterroso was victim to kidnapping and torture in the spring of 2009. Though her case had been stalled in an appeal's court, it was reopened apon her return to Guatemala and the Public Prosecutor's Office has agreed to investigate new leads.

Read an Interview with Gladys Monterroso in the NY publication El Diario La Prensa (español)


During her April visit to the GHRC office, Gladys said, "I had a normal life before March 25. I thought I understood the victims of violence in Guatemala. Now that I am a victim, I realize that I never understood fully what it means to experience that level of violence. Why me? What did I do to deserve this? My life is forever marked, divided into before and after March 25, 2009."

Gladys is not a human rights worker, but like so many women, she is a victim of violence and has seen no justice in her case. She courageously spoke out in universities, churches and communities up and down the East Coast to bring attention to:

*the horrific levels of violence in Guatemala
*violence against women
*politically motivated violence
*violence as a push factor for migration to the US
*victims of torture in present day Guatemala

Gladys is a law professor at the University of San Carlos in Guatemala City, and a licensed tax lawyer. She also holds a Master's Degree in Economics. Until she was attacked in March, 2009, she worked as the secretary for congresswoman Nineth Montenegro of the political party Encuentro por Guatemala.  In 2005 she was one of  eight lawyers selected for recognition by the Guatemalan Constitutional Court. In 2007 she earned the "Valuable Literary Contribution and Academic Career Award"  from the Dean of the Law and Social Sciences Faculty  at the University of San Carlos. 

Gladys has two daughters and lives in Guatemala City.


Read Gladys' Open Letter to Immigrants in the U.S.
Lea la carta abierta de Gladys a los inmigrantes en los EE.UU.

View a tour flyer [pdf]


Tour Schedule

2009 Speaking Tour
Oct. 19-20: Richmond, VA and near-by locations
Oct. 21: Baltimore, MD
Oct. 22-25: Philadelphia, PA and near-by locations
Oct. 26-29: New York City, NY and near-by locations
Oct. 29-31: Boston, MA and near-by locations
Nov. 1-3: Washington, DC



Violence Against Women, with Maria Elena Peralta
April 16 - 20, 2007

From April 16 - 20, 2007, GHRC welcomed María Elena Peralta to Washington DC for a speaking tour about violence against women in Guatemala. María Elena is a women's rights activist for Fundación Sobrevivientes (Survivors Foundation) in Guatemala.

Since the vicious murder of her sister in 2002, María Elena Peralta has worked tirelessly to raise awareness of the increasingly brutal killings of Guatemalan women and girls and to urge the authorities to investigate and prosecute those responsible for gender-based violence. María Elena spoke with the US Congress about this issue in 2005 and has participated in several solidarity events around the world to shed light on the cases of femicide. Due to her efforts, she has received numerous threats.

The Survivors’ Foundation is a social service organization that strives to help the primary and secondary survivors of gender-based violence to obtain psychological treatment and legal counsel. The Foundation’s objectives include: the prevention, sanction and eradication of violence against women and children in Guatemala; justice on behalf of women and children who have been victims of violence; and the creation of a center specializing in the support of women and children who have been victims of violence. Read more at the Foundation's website.

On the speaking tour, GHRC and María Elena met with Congressional Representatives, Senators, the US Department of State, various human rights organizations, local high schools and universities, and local churches. Her personal stories along with her expertise in women's advocacy touched hundreds of people.

Read an interview with María Elena in El Tiempo Latino (English translation).













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