Anyone with any interest in Guatemala cannot fail to be aware of the appalling wave of murders directed against women. While many more men are murdered each year the sadistic brutality with which women are often killed suggests a particular malice, and a strength of both stomach and will not to turn away. It is gratifying to see those with that strength being recognised.
Norma Cruz, the director and founder of Fundacion Sobrevivientes (Survivors Foundation) has been recognised with a Women of Courage Award. This is a relatively new award created by then US Secretary of State Condolezza Rice in 2007 to recognise women who show courage and leadership as they struggle for human rights and social justice in their countries. It is given to eight women, on 8th March, International Women’s Day, and this year the awards were presented by the new Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton. Other parts of the US Government have previously recognised the parlous state of respect for women’s lives in the past, when US House of Representatives passed a motion on the subject in 2007.
Norma Cruz’ organisation was founded to respond to violence against women, by both challenging attitudes and by supporting those who want to bring cases against their aggressors. There is a very interesting interview here, in Spanish, in which she explains how the foundation came into being, its work and the challenges it faces. One challenge she does not mention is the personal danger into which she and many others fighting impunity place themselves. Her and those she works for have been the subject of Amnesty Urgent actions, including this one.
You may recognise Norma from the excellent but shocking BBC documentary “Killer’s Paradise” in which she appeared in in 2005. Asked only days ago whether the situation had improved at all she replied gloomily “I say with much sadness that we have gone backwards because today we are practically fighting for our lives, to finish the day” (author translation). I sincerely hope that this award may make someone take notice and change this dismal analysis for the better.