Diakonia - People change the world
A woman receiving a food package from another woman In San Juan Sacatepéquez, many women live on growing and selling flowers. Measures to reduce contagion have hit hard on their livelihood. Antonia Pirir is one of those who receive urgent help.

Urgent action to prevent hunger and violence

In San Juan Sacatepéquez, many women live on growing and selling flowers. Measures to reduce contagion have hit hard on their livelihood. Antonia Pirir is one of those who receive urgent help.

“Now that the schools have closed, I haven’t got enough food for my five children,” says Antonia Pirir. “They got breakfast at school and my husband used to leave home at four o’clock in the morning to go to work. Now we’re all at home and there’s not enough food to go round. But we do need to eat”.

The parcel is crucial for many families

Antonia is one of the women who have been receiving food parcels from Diakonia’s partner organization Asociación Grupo Integral de Mujeres Sanjuaneras (AGIMS) since the pandemic broke out. Maize, rice, beans, oil, pasta, butter, sugar, soups and a face mask are packaged up and distributed to women from Guatemala’s indigenous population. The food parcels feed five people for a week. It is an emergency response that is making a difference.

- It is important to reach out to these women since they belong to the indigenous population and have limited resources. They have not received any help from the state or private companies, says Esperanza Tubac, coordinator at AGIMS.

Helping women affected by violence

AGIMS works to improve women’s lives, especially women from the indigenous population in the town of San Juan Sacatepéquez. The organisation distributes information about sexual and reproductive health, empowers women to take place in society and fights for the right of women to a life free of violence. Guatemala’s rate for murders of women is among the highest in the world, with violence an everyday part of women’s lives. The strict curfew introduced in Guatemala to reduce the spread of infection makes women particularly vulnerable to domestic violence.

“Before we started delivering food, we looked at what women needed most urgently,” says AGIMS Coordinator Esperanza Tubac. “They’re in a difficult financial situation because they can no longer sell the flowers they grow. And there’s been a considerable increase in violence against women”.

Opened a help line for victims of violence

Being forced into quarantine at home makes it more likely that women will be subjected to violence when they live with the perpetrator. AGIMS has therefore opened a helpline for female victims of violence so that they can get legal advice and help in an emergency.

- Violence against women is not new. But it has increased and is more visible now, says Ammy Rompich, who is answering calls to the helpline. 

The helpline is open day and night for both Spanish speaking women and women speaking the native language Kaqchiquel. It is important that the help is available to all women. Through telephone and social media, she and her colleagues help vulnerable women with counseling, reports to the police and mediate contact with a lawyer. The pressure on the helpline has been high, and the line is here to stay. 

- It is obvious that it is needed. Eventhough we are back in the office where we usually receive vulnerable women, they continue to call. They are constantly looking for advice and help, says Ammy.