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IJM Canada visits Field Office in Guatemala

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From August 7-12, eight Canadian supporters and three IJM Canada staff participated in a flagship trip to Guatemala. This trip marked IJM Canada’s first trip overseas since 2019 and the first Canadian visit to IJM’s field office in Guatemala.

During this trip, participants learned about Guatemala’s complex history and diverse culture and the overwhelming reality of violence against women and children (VAWC). Through meetings with IJM staff and partner organizations, they were encouraged by the progress and innovative projects in place to protect 9.2M from violence by 2030. Protection is measured by the reduction in crime and an increase in the performance, reliance on, and confidence in the justice system.

By 2030, IJM and trained partners will protect 9.2M people from violence against women and children.

Photo with IJMG staff with masks

IJM Canada participants and IJM Guatemala Staff

Guatemala hosts IJM’s Hub for operations in the Northern Triangle of Central America, composed of the countries of Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras. Launched in 2005, the Guatemala Country Office has grown to include social workers, lawyers, project managers, operations staff and community engagement officers. Building relationships with the Guatemala staff was one of the highlights of the trip.

Participants were inspired by IJM Guatemala's compassion, professionalism, love and openness in the midst of daily challenges.

IJM’s initial focus was providing free legal and psychosocial care in individual cases of sexual violence against children. Trip participants learned about landmark convictions for perpetrators like El Lobo* in 2013 and met Jakelin, once a survivor of sexual violence supported by IJM Guatemala, now an advocate for women’s rights. Jakelin also works for IJM supporting other survivors like her who leverage the power of their voice and story to make their home country a safer place for their children.

By supporting individuals through the legal process, IJM staff saw and experienced the gaps that victims of VAWC were facing when interacting with the judicial system. These gaps led to customized recommendations and training for government ministers and justice system officials, resulting in system strengthening and increased efficiency when processing new cases. Between 2005-2016, IJM supported 372 children in this process.

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School playground at partner organization, AMG. Their lawyers, psychologists and social workers provide trauma-informed care and legal support for children who have experienced sexual abuse.

With growing awareness and support to end VAWC, IJM expanded its approach to protecting victims only in Guatemala City to other areas in the country. In 2018, IJM began to prioritize working with partner organizations like Oasis, AMG, and investing in supporting survivor leaders like the members of Mi Historia Importa. Eventually, IJM’s work in Guatemala will be 91% partner-led.

In 2019, IJM created the Northern Triangle Hub program that serves three main purposes: Position IJM as a thought leader in the subregion; serve as technical experts, mentors and trainers; and facilitate collaboration and exchange of best practices. When visiting AMG, it was clear that IJM partners with organizations who share the same professional, compassionate, data-driven and trauma-informed approach to ending violence against women and children. In the last four years, these partnerships have helped 372 children receive access justice services.

After years of partnership and support, IJM is a trusted government partner, providing training and consultation to ensure the entire justice system is victim-centric in its approach. During the trip participants had the privilege of meeting the staff at El Instituto de la Victima and the Secretaria contra la Violencia, Explotacion y Trata de Personas (SVET). In 2019, the Guatemalan government created the Institute for Victim Care and Assistance with the mandate to oversee national policy and provide care to victims of violence. Based on IJM’s years of experience providing effective care to survivors, they were invited to co- create their model of care. Using a trauma-informed model, the institute extends free legal, psychosocial and medical assistance to survivors of violence. The first location was opened to the public in 2020.

The results were astounding: in one year, the Victim’s Institute was able to serve 6,486 victims.

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Antigua, Guatemala

IJM Canada is grateful to IJM Guatemala, AMG, MOCVIN, Mi Historia Importa, Instituto de la Victima and SVET for their hospitality and partnership to end violence against women and children in Guatemala. Throughout the entire trip, survivor stories outlined a vision for Guatemala where violence against women and children is no longer the norm. Victims receive justice quickly. Perpetrators are convicted. Trauma-informed care is standard. The culture of machismo is changed through survivor leadership, community engagement and law enforcement. The survivors believe this is possible, IJM Guatemala and their partners believe this is possible. The participants of the trip believe this is possible. What about you?

*A pseudonym

Join us and support the work of IJM Guatemala by becoming a monthly Freedom Partner. Sustainable giving allows our teams to continue ending violence against women and children, every day.

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