Stories of Girls’ Resistance
Ana, Guatemala


“I began to teach to more people who wanted to learn and among them there were many women, without wanting it, without knowing that it was feminism, without knowing what I was including, without knowing that I was a workshop woman, as an instinct of wanting to share what I had learned.”

Ana’s Story

The following poem says: “here in this country everything is far away. Even though the country is tiny, everything is far, education is far, health is far, participation in public spaces is far, everything is far.”

To Ana, this poem is a way to summarise how it is to live far away from Guatemala’s capital. And, it’s not that the distance is a problem itself. The problem is the centralisation faced in most Latin American countries and how it becomes an obstacle to exercising our rights.

For Ana, living in a red district or a marginal urban zone hindered in some way her participation when she was a child and teenager. There was no access to roads or public transportation. There was only one library in her community, and internet access was limited.

This situation restricted her participation, as well as that of many other Guatemalan women. As Ana shares: “there are a few communities where  nothing happens, and if it does, it is always something bad.” This is the harsh national reality for many girls and boys who need to walk miles to get to school. They wake up very early and arrive without breakfast. This situation was no exception for Ana even though she lived relatively close to where she studied elementary and middle school. For those reasons, in addition to other situations, she decided to do her high school online. Luckily, she had internet access and everything worked out fine. She is currently studying at a public university, which requires her to leave home at 5:30 a.m. to arrive at the university by 7 a.m. for her first class.

Ana is admired by many. She is an example of internal strength and a loving and caring person. Sometimes I try to imagine the antisocial and shy Ana that she claims to be as a girl.  Still, the only visible image of her in my mind, is one where she is reading at home and school. This image might be because I remember Ana as very social, caring, and full of brightness. She shares that she was this way until she was 12 when she started to study at a private institute.

She began her activism as an approach of popular education to involve people in political activities. Proposing different actions from an acquired analytical perspective for the areas  where they are living. At the institute, they had artistic expression and she decided to do theater and stilts for a long period. Once she had reached some expertise, she started teaching other people, many of them were women. She shared that she did it not knowing what feminism was,  without being conscious that it was being inclusive, and not knowing that she was giving workshops. All she wanted to do was share her learnings with others.

She told us about a professor who recognised the massive exclusion of women. And, to address this, a cultural week called “woman´s week” was organised. During this week, Ana began to do workshops for women who practiced stilts. These workshops continued every morning for the next two years.

In the afternoons, Ana took theater, dance, music, juggling, and stilts, among other activities. Everything she learned was immediately shared, mainly because she always found time to do it, and because it was important in her heart. While carrying out all her activities, she also participated in political spaces where she learned a lot about human rights, children, and women’s rights.

She took advantage of every opportunity that came along while at the institute. Later on, she formed a theater group composed only of women. They used their plays to talk about the intense violence that lived in their communities. Their work had such an impact that their theater group was invited to do a two-month tour with other women groups outside of the country to visit countries such as Germany, Austria, and Slovenia. The experience changed everyone’s perception and built connections.

On Ana´s part, she participated in one more play in Guatemala. She later decided to study cultural animation at Caja Lúdica, a partner organisation of the institute where she had studied. Studying cultural animation was an excellent option for her because it was something that she felt passionate about. It was also an option because of the hardship faced by her family, who could not afford her studies.

Once she had finished her studies at Caja Lúdica, she didn’t hesitate to ask for a job from the organisation´s coordinators. Due to her age (16 years), the only available option was to offer a scholarship that allowed her to continue her education and receive extra income.

On more than one occasion, she told us that the institute was where she built her ideas and critical thinking. Her internship period at Caja Lúdica made her understand her role and the meaning of the workshops that she provided.

Ana is now a part of the organisation, and her growth shines due to her openness. All her experiences have transformed her into an empowered, strong woman with wisdom that she shares. It has not been an easy road. She understood the way people thought that women were not capable of doing things. From a personal experience, she lived exclusion.

But Ana has a soul, mind, and body incapable of being afraid of adversity.  Now she speaks and acts with knowledge! She learned how to make her voice heard. At home, she recognises her sisters, who studied at the institute before her. She remembers how they used to get home and say: “they can’t limit our participation, they can’t yell at us, they can’t hit us. We as girls also have a voice  and vote.” Those situations changed her family dynamics, they helped build her formation and participation, so in the end, her attitudes were not being observed as a rebellious phase or a hobby.  She shared how her sister’s roles were fundamental for her family to create changes, which began while she was a child. I assure you that she continued that legacy. Ana used her intelligence and loving personality to let her parents know about the importance of speaking up and taking action.

She invited her parents to her activities and talked to them about her feelings. She shared with them about the impact her work was having on people’s life and their communities. She always referred to the beauty and importance of her work. When we were talking with another person, I asked her to share about the time when she used the religious arguments from her parents to explain her work towards a life free of violence. She shared what she would tell her mom: “Mom, just imagine violence as a demon, and with the help of your prayers, I’m taking action because  faith without action is dead faith.” She is so ingenious!

Ana has represented a lot of things in my life. Still, the most important one is the capability to acknowledge our voices and how we need to express our thoughts and feelings. Since I met Ana, on every single occasion where I spend time with a young girl and  the opportunity arises, I tell them that they need to express their feelings and, if necessary, rebel against any disagreement. I tell them that being a rebel is not something wrong if used to point out things that hurt or harms them.  I let them know that they need to be calm because they will find many women who will help them heal during their lives. I want to share this with as many young girls as I can during my lifetime in gratitude for everything that Anna taught me.