MuJER, a nonprofit organization that promotes women’s rights in Guatemala co-founded by LMU professor Jodi Finkel and two of her former students, celebrated its first participant to graduate from high school and culinary school this past month. The participant, who goes by the name Alondra, hopes to become an international chef.
“We’re so happy for her,” Finkel said. “It’s incredible to hear our participants talk about themselves in a positive way. Every person deserves to be treated with respect and to believe that they deserve it.”
MuJER was launched in 2005 by Finkel and two of her students, Ana Moraga ’05 and Tania Torres ’05, in the red light district in downtown Guatemala City. The organization offers a complete range of services to help female sex workers become more socially and politically active – from literacy and computer courses to seminars about violence prevention and women’s legal rights.
“With education and specialized skills, MUJER enables women sex workers to find economic and emotional stability, have a voice in society, and better their own lives as well those of their children,” Finkel said.
Originally, MuJER served about 25 participants in the La Linea district in downtown Guatemala City. It was located in a small community center that had one classroom, a room for workshops and little communal space. Since 2005, the organization has served more than 600 women offering even more seminars and workshops. It has moved into a larger community center that has two classrooms, a larger room for workshops, increased communal space and a kitchen. Also, MuJER now serves women in eight other districts as well as on the border of Guatemala and Mexico.
Finkel said one of the biggest reasons that women end up in prostitution in Guatemala is that they are trafficked in from rural parts of Guatemala or other countries. The women are often times promised employment but instead find themselves trapped in the sex trade. Other women turn to sex work to pay coyotes to cross the border or because they lack formal education and financial resources.
“There needs to be a change in attitude in how these women are treated,” Finkel said. “The larger society tends to devalue sex workers. But every person regardless of their background and profession is equal under the law and deserves protection under the law.”
MuJER expects its second participant to graduate high school in December 2013.
For more information, go to http://www.mujerguatemala.org/