Projects Funded in 2001:

Asociación de la Mujer Maya Ixil Chajul, Guatemala.

Since the founding of the Association of Maya Ixil Women, more than 100 women have been involved in organizing community-based educational, economic development, and psychosocial projects for the women and children of their community. The Martín-Baró Fund supported one of their first projects, a community corn mill. More recently, twenty ADMI members collaborated on producing the photo-essay, Voces e imágenes: Mujeres Maya Ixiles de Chajul, which describes the community's experiences of more than three decades of war and state-sponsored violence, as well as their response to these violations and their efforts to build toward the future.

Based on connections made during the PhotoVoice project, this year's grant will be used to extend the mental health work to women living in four villages surrounding Chajul. ADMI will establish five centers where workshops will be conducted to enable women and children to 1) discuss the origins of the war, 2) understand the impact of the war on mental health, and 3) analyze the condition of women in Guatemala, in order to develop ideas to meet their mental health needs. Some of our funds will also be used to produce pamphlets about the mental health impact of the war and of current economic and social conditions. Thus, ADMI will be engaged both in the work of psychological recovery and in wider education about state-sponsored violence and mental health.

Asociación de Mujeres en Apoyo Para la Salud Mental Comunitaria, El Salvador.

El Salvador endured a violent civil war from 1979 to 1992 that took the lives of some 70 to 75 thousand people, most quite poor. Most of the country's wealth continues to be concentrated in the hands of a few families, and right-wing forces still predominate politically. Early this year the country was devastated by earthquakes that took the lives of about 1,250 people, and left thousands more injured or homeless. Poor communities continue to struggle to come to terms with the dramatic loss of life, forced displacement, and desperate living and working conditions. For the women in such communities, the entrenched machismo in the country limits educational and work opportunities, and negatively affects their self-esteem, while the violence and hardship of recent years have led to increased domestic violence.

MUSAMECO, a grassroots group funded once before by the Martín-Baró Fund, has designed a project of weekly meetings with women in poor and marginalized communities around San Salvador. Trained mental health workers will facilitate these meetings, where the women will participate in group dynamics, learn relaxation techniques, and take part in discussions about their experiences of loss; about basic human rights such as healthcare, education, employment and housing; and about women's issues such as gender equality, self-esteem and the right to protection against violence. The well-designed program aims to empower these women to become protagonists in bettering their lives. MUSAMECO's nuanced appreciation of the links among community mental health, human rights, social consciousness, and activism place it squarely within the philosophy of the Martín-Baró Fund.

Children's Rehabilitation Center Quezon City, Philippines.

The military campaign of the government of former-President Joseph Estrada against the Moro Islamic Liberation Front in Mindanao has displaced nearly 300,000 people and intensified both rural and urban poverty in the region. Hundreds of houses and shacks of relocated families had sprung up around the Payatas garbage dump near Quezon City when the enormous pile of garbage collapsed after heavy rains in June 2000. More than 400 houses were destroyed and 242 people perished in the avalanche of trash. Though Estrada was replaced by Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, through the efforts of "People Power II," the need for economic, political, and social reform in the Philippines continues.

Children Braving the Storm, a project of The Children's Rehabilitation Center, addresses the psychological trauma of children who have witnessed the violence of militarization and suffered the loss of family and friends in Payatas. It also aims to teach the children advocacy skills, while building a network of public support for meeting their needs. This year, the Fund will support a follow-up rehabilitation program for twenty priority children directly affected by the Payatas tragedy, as well as initial outreach to an additional fifty Payatas children. The program includes individual and group therapy, visual arts, public speaking workshops, and theater arts workshops. The participating children will create a presentation for the celebration of Human Rights Day, which will then tour in schools and communities to raise awareness and gain support around issues affecting children in this area. Visit the website of the Children's Rehabilitation Center.

Fortaleza de la Mujer Maya San Cristóbal de las Casas, Chiapas, México.

Since the Colonial era, the indigenous communities of Chiapas have been isolated, and have suffered from slavery, racial discrimination, land seizures, and lack of education and health services. Those who have protested have often been persecuted or killed, giving rise to the popular Zapatista movement. These conditions in the highlands have also led to depression, family conflict, and alcoholism, which in turn contribute to the high incidence of rape and domestic violence.

FOMMA works with Mayan women who have been forced by such conditions to migrate to the city, where they try to support themselves and their children as servants or street vendors. They frequently live on the street, without access to public assistance or education, and some may be trapped in a vicious circle of alcoholism, drug addiction, exploitation, and poverty. Founded by women who had experienced this life themselves, FOMMA provides food, education, and basic skills-building, so that the women may find better paying jobs, build self esteem, and adapt more easily to city life. Participants learn to write in their own languages, and stage theater performances that enable them to analyze their reality and work to improve their lives. There are also creative workshops and meals programs for the preschool children of participants. The Martín-Baró Fund's award this year will continue to support production of the plays through which the women and children share their concerns with their communities, make connections between their problems and widespread human rights issues, and explore creative means for addressing their needs.

Instituto Acción Para El Progreso, Huancavelica, Peru.

Rural pueblos in the Peruvian Andes were greatly affected by sociopolitical turmoil and violence during the 1980s. Entire towns were destroyed during the political battles between the leftist "Sendero Luminoso" (Shining Path) and the forces of the state. Many families had to abandon their homes; men disappeared; and women, children, and the elderly were often left in the villages alone. Today, these communities are struggling to rebuild themselves and their cultural identity.

Now entering its second year of funding, INAPRO focuses on the psychosocial development of women, children, families, and the community as a whole. For adults, there will be workshops and "pláticas," or talks, intended to build self esteem, promote resiliency, learn about human rights, and heal the community. With children, the overarching goal is to foster the development of cultural identity through workshops and activities including the creation of traditional costumes and artwork, traditional dances, and learning indigenous stories and history. A second component of the work is an agricultural project where members of the community will learn together how to work the land. Aside from enabling them to supplement their diets and feed malnourished children, this aspect of the project will empower people, teach them valuable skills, and help to rebuild a sense of community.

K'inal Antzetik San Cristóbal de las Casas, Chiapas, México.

Chiapas is one of the poorest states in Mexico, despite being one of the richest in natural resources. Its indigenous people, 35% of the total population, suffer political abandonment, poverty, and abuse by the military. The 1994 Zapatista uprising was a response to centuries of such oppression. In response, the federal government militarized the state of Chiapas. Government tactics have included threats, withholding of basic services, disappearances and arbitrary detentions, massacres, isolation of communities in the conflict zones, and the sponsorship of paramilitary groups. This ongoing low-intensity warfare against the indigenous communities has led to enormous psychological distress.

K'inal Antzetik is a grass roots organization which has been working with the indigenous populations of Chiapas for about ten years, promoting human rights and economic justice. Since 1998, their work has incorporated a mental health component. This year's grant from the Martín-Baró Fund will help K'inal Antzetik to train 325 indigenous mental health and education promoters who will reach approximately 10,000 people from the Altamirano-Ocosingo-Comitan region of Chiapas. Specifically, the award will help to support one community psychologist, six training workshops in different regions of Chiapas, and the production of training materials including pamphlets and videos. The workshops will enable participants to share experiences, acquire basic support skills, and begin to form networks to maintain connections among their communities. Consequently, they will serve to break the barriers of isolation erected by the state as a form of psychological warfare against the indigenous population. Visit the website of K'inal Antzetik.

Solidarité des Femmes de Fizi pour le Bien-Etre Familial Tanzania / Democratic Republic of the Congo.

SOFIBEF is based in Tanzania but working in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Since 1998, the DRC has been torn by civil conflict exacerbated by alliances between warring groups and factions in neighboring counties. Current estimates are that as many as 3 million people have died in the conflict, which has no end in sight, though the new president, Joseph Kabila has responded to overtures for a UN peace keeping force. Women, predictably, have been especially vulnerable to the violence, suffering arbitrary exposure to torture, rape, enslavement, and displacement.

The Martín-Baró Fund is supporting an ongoing program called "Women's Human Rights and Mental Health of Survivors in Fizi Territory." Over thirty volunteer advocates have been trained to work with women affected not only by war-related brutality, but also by sexual harassment and domestic violence. This project supports these women through public education about, and advocacy for, human rights. It offers programs including art therapy, hospital visits, counseling, and post traumatic stress disorder management, as well as training in basic survival skills. The women are also producing a newsletter featuring historical figures of women who have experienced mental health problems. Of particular interest is the project's work with families, to help them understand the multiple assaults and hardships faced by the women and to offer ways that family members can help. Its ultimate goal is to enable women to recover from assaults on their mental health and to develop the skills necessary to achieve greater self reliance. Visit SOFIBEF's website.