Issuu on Google+

S E C T I O N 2 Community S TO R I E S A B O U T P E O P L E A N D E V E N T S I N T H E C O M M U N I T Y Photo by Michelle Le/The Almanac These Portola Valley girls and their mothers are headed for the Guatemala highlands this summer to spend time with indigenous women artisans and their daughters who are trying to better their chances in a country distinguished by poverty and domestic violence. Local effort to help indigenous women in Guatemala By Dave Boyce Almanac Staff Writer I n traveling to Guatemala last summer, a few local women learned first-hand about the yawning gap between their lives in Silicon Valley and those of women in that Central American country, one of the poorest in Latin America and “one of the most dangerous places for women” due to domestic violence, according to a UNICEF report. The locals also learned of experiences and aspirations they share as women and mothers. The women traveled there in support of an organization called Mercado Global, a nonprofit that works to empower rural Guatemalan women, in part by helping indigenous artisans design and market their hand-crafted accessories for North American retail stores. Mercado-affiliated goods, including handbags and digital-device totes that reflect a Mayan heritage, may be found in major retailers such as Bloomingdale’s and Anthropologie. The organization helps Guatemalan women form cooperatives and establish themselves as reliable sources for high-quality merchandise, said Ruth DeGolia, co-founder of Mercado, which is based in New Haven, Connecticut. Common ground The Silicon Valley women may not know poverty, but they know something about gender discrimination and injustice, and how to attempt to right such wrongs. And they understand the desire to make far better lives for their daughters. This July, seven mother-and-daughter teams from Portola Valley plan to have their own experiences in Guatemala. The Portola Valley girls, most of them from Corte Madera Middle School, are trying to raise $15,000 for Mercado. “It is important for children growing up in our country who are remarkably privileged and have so many opportunities ... to see how others of their same ages live,” said Sallie DeGolia, one of the mothers taking the trip and Ruth DeGolia’s aunt. What did the local women talk about when they were in Guatamala last year? Raising children; adjusting to being breadwinners; balancing career and family; family planning — a touchy subject in a deeply Catholic culture; and genderbased discrimination, according to Ruth DeGolia. Two of the Silicon Valley women who traveled to Guatamala were Portola Valley resident Nancy Heinen, a former corporate attorney, and Menlo Park resident Judy O’Brien, a partner at King & Spalding, an international law firm based in Atlanta. Ms. Heinen said she and her colleagues had it pretty good growing up. “We had terrific educations, mentors and an infrastructure for problem solving. These (Guatemalan) women have so little resources, no infrastructure and suffer incredible violence. Until I met these indigenous women in Guatemala, I didn’t realize how deep the prejudice was against these people.” Ms. O’Brien said all the women related to having and raising children. “They’re wonderfully warm human beings,” she said. “There are amazing stories of strength and determination.” Some stories had grievous overtones. One indigenous woman spoke of how her husband, after having fathered seven children with her, learned that she could not have more children and divorced her, leaving her and the children to fend for themselves. While people in the U.S. at some point in their lives may aspire to change the world, “it’s hard for these women to have that aspiration,” Ms. Heinen said. “They don’t even have sanitation! ... They were sharing stories and a lot of tears. They See GUATEMALAN WOMEN, page 15 On the cover: Guatemalan women of Mayan heritage surround Portola Valley resident Sadie Bronk, in the blue headband, who raised $10,000 to fund a new computer lab in the village of Chuacruz in 2010. Behind Sadie is Ruth DeGolia, co-founder of the fair-trade nonprofit Mercado Global that helps indigenous women artisans in Guatemala design high-quality fashion accessories for North American markets. Photo by Sallie DeGolia. January 23, 2013NTheAlmanacOnline.comNThe AlmanacN13

The Almanac 01.23.2013 - Section 2

Related publications