Weaving life with gender equity

In the territory of the Tzolojya Mancomunidad, Sololá, a space is created for men where they can analyze the meaning of being a man and reflect on their different experiences, realities, contexts, experiences, and emotions. Training begins for the first time in the School of Masculinities of Lake Atitlán, which has a single purpose; train the trainer of trainers. The entire project arises from the strategy of “Weaving lives free of violence” of the Tzolojya Mancomunidad.

Personal and collective knowledge is used to identify what attitudes, behaviors, ideas, practices, customs, and actions are carried out within the privileges of being men. This is part of a model of hegemonic masculinity, that is; attitudes accepted by society. The project looks for forms, ways, methods, and alliances between men to break and unlearn all these characteristics in order to initiate a transition towards being more sensitive and conscious people for the construction of affirmative actions for effective gender justice and the prevention of violence.

“New” masculinities

In this process, each participant receives a methodology to strengthen their knowledge, skills, and abilities to create and promote spaces for men in their organization, communities, or other areas and generate a block of work on an increasingly larger scale in the territory, explains Fidel Saloj, community leader and promoter of the school.
The term “new” masculinities arises from feminist movements, pointing out that it is necessary for men to take an active part in the construction of gender justice and violence prevention, referring to creating a more positive and healthy model of masculinity. In reality, there are no “new” or “old” masculinities, but from the existing masculine diversity there are ways in which men exercise their role; they can be more inclusive, sensitive, conscious, and emotionally positive and contribute to gender justice, adds Saloj.

Break milestones

According to the promoters of the school, masculinities is a word that refers to the cultural, social, and historical construction of how men have learned or have been educated to be men through imposition, superiority, and privileges, but this formation seeks to break some patterns and stereotypes and change attitudes.
Regardless of the forms or types that are called masculinities, one of the characteristics is that they all seek for men to be able to get involved and take part in the construction of affirmative actions to achieve gender justice and prevent violence, he points out.

To make a change and avoid framing men in certain actions, such as crying or showing affection, it is necessary to recognize and address that men play an important role in preventing violence and contributing to inclusion and gender justice. Analyzing the different personal, family, community, cultural, religious, and political spheres to identify what hegemonic characteristics each man has, as well as what characteristics do not fit or are not a positive part of society. But, you must have a starting point to assume personal and collective commitments. Addressing the issue as a society, gender relations would improve, and there would be more equality and more prevention of violence, especially that which is against women.

Context from the communities

Because it is a new process in the territory of the Mancomunidad and its communities and considering that the territory is made up mainly of Kiche and Kaqchiquel Mayan populations, there is no definition in these languages to refer to masculinities, but it is shared and does have the conception of which is a process of sensitization aimed at men for the fight against violence and the promotion of gender equality.

It is necessary to contextualize and adapt the methodology taking into account the social, cultural, religious, political, and other factors of the territory, to be coherent and relevant. In addition, to be in constant validation throughout the process, even the name of the school is in the process of being revised, because this concept of the “school” is very systematic and western, for this reason, the name that the space will finally have continues to be analyzed and reflected on, explains Saloj.

Theme gestation

It is important to point out that the school project arises from the demands of women holders of rights who participate in the schools of weaving and embroidery of the Tzolojya Commonwealth, as well as women holding responsibilities of community commissions and municipal commissions of the women of this territory as a measure for the involvement of men in the process of prevention of violence and promotion of gender justice.
In addition, there is a focus on the part of the cooperation with whom we work to include these programs in the work strategies in the territory.

The school is established within the framework of the project “Kaqchikel and Kiche Mayan women weaving and walking together for a life free of violence, in 4 municipalities of the department of Sololá”, a project financed by the Provincial Council of Bizkaia of Spain, in coordination with ENTRE FRIENDS/LAGUN ARTEAN. The Société de coopération pour le développement international (SOCODEVI) has joined this process, with the project Inclusive Economic Development in Sololá Guatemala (PRODISOL). Based on the experience so far, other steps have been taken so that the school will be able to run for the next 5 years.

The methodological process and facilitation are carried out by the Fundación Centro Bartolomé de las Casas del Salvador, using the methodology developed for more than 15 years at the Equinoccio School of Masculinities. This consists of a process of personal and collective reflection. It is a practical methodology based on the experience of each one of the men, for the deconstruction of the masculine gender identity (unlearning of the hegemonic model of masculinity), stemming from subjective elements such as culture, customs, everyday language, play, and corporeality.

At the end of the process, each participant agrees to be part of a network of men, whose main function will be to continue analyzing and reflecting on the challenges, barriers, and limitations that are encountered on a daily basis. In addition, they will seek to define in a consensual and joint manner other forms, strategies, and pronouncements from the vision of allied men for the prevention of violence and promotion of gender justice in the territory of the Tzolojya Mancomunidad.

Assume experiences

One of the main mistakes that is made when talking about masculinities is to start talking about the roles that men must assume in the reproductive sphere, which results in a direct attack on men’s privileges; who as a defense choose not to continue participating and reject the process, that is why it is important to have a methodological route where the point of analysis is being a man from a personal and individual perspective but also from a collective perspective, analyzing with others to start a process affirmatively based on the experience of each man.

As with any process of transformation and social change, there are challenges, and the difficulty that arises is that not all organizations have the necessary tools, so methodologies carried out in other contexts are generally used. However, this process has already begun, which is expected to expand in the department and can be initiated in spaces to benefit a more just society

This report article was created to the support of the association ENTRE AMIGOS/LAGUN ARTEAN.