Veronica Di Maggio 10

They advise and accompany survivors of violence


In February I had the opportunity to document the project of the organization IDESAC – Institute of Community Development – called “Sistematización de la Propuesta Técnica constructiva de vivienda modelo Tipo Tipo Cajolá sismo resista de adobe”. The project was born from the need to document, share and above all, articulate the housing allocation proposals, with the collaboration of the association “K´loj qya Aq´unal te k´ojlá”. in the Mam language, the “Fighting Women of Cajolá” to spread learning the technical construction process using local materials.

Article 6 of the Housing Law, Decree 09-2012 in Guatemala, establishes that Guatemalans have the right to decent, adequate and healthy housing, with access to basic infrastructure and services. This constitutes a fundamental human right, without distinction of ethnicity, age, sex, social or economic condition; the State must promote and facilitate its exercise, with special protection for children, single mothers and the elderly.

The main aim is to guarantee access to adequate housing for the enjoyment of basic human rights. The situation in Guatemala regarding this aspect has always been a taboo and the right to housing is seen as more in danger especially for people who are part of the social minority, who are denied the right to education, work or social security.
According to one study, in Guatemala, 61% of the population lives in conditions of extreme poverty. This figure is particularly higher in the rural areas of the country where the indigenous population resides. The greatest precariousness is represented by Decent Work with 27%, followed by housing, which represents 24% and basic services, 22%.

Given the total absence of the State of Guatemala in providing essential and basic services including the right to decent housing, the population in situations of poverty has sought other alternatives resulting in high rates of migration, mainly to the United States. 4.8% of people intending to migrate do so to buy a house. Another significant factor is how buildings located in inappropriate places or with poor construction has developed in the country.

In 2005, IDESAC, thanks to funding from the Sueca Cooperation, developed a new proposal for the Ley de Vivienda, i.e. the law on housing which refers to the role of municipalities in the coordination of planning, the provision of basic services and guarantees the access to the equipment necessary for global human and community development, while preserving natural resources. By starting a dialogue process, where 15 different organizations took part and were willing to collaborate, only in 2012 during the government of Otto Perez, the officialization of the Ley de Vivienda was achieved.

After 9 years from the entry into force of the law, the organizations FODHAP and FOPAVI came to the conclusion that the support from the State of Guatemala, to maintain and develop this law in all respects, was incomplete and unsatisfactory in various ways .
Despite this, IDESAC has continued to struggle over the years to obtain support from the state. Without ever giving up, in 2017, 2 homes were built with the anti-seismic Adobe construction system, built for 2 single-parent families with women as heads of the family in the municipality of Cajolá.

These houses were built through solidarity, mutual help and the participation of 20 women from this association “K´loj qya Aq´unal te k´ojlá”. Cajolà is the first municipality that took a stand and started this project, where women are not only supported but are the part that contributes to the growth of this program, with the aim of highlighting their role as promoters of their own development and that of their families. The importance of their active participation in the process is to give them the opportunity to break the gender stereotypes that have limited their development by becoming an example for other women and families living in the same precarious conditions in rural areas of Guatemala.

The women of the association “K´loj qya Aq´unal te k´ojlá”. are the contributing and active part, so much so, the process begins exactly with them.

Our first stage was precisely “The construction” through assembly. For this form of construction, in principle only soil containing clay is needed. The soil, in abundance, is extracted from a nearby quarry. The right quantities are essential during the assembly: soil that contains too much sand becomes brittle and sand that contains too much clay cracks. 5 women are part of this initialization process, who are responsible for the formation of what we call Adobe blocks. This group produces more than 200 blocks per day to then send to the other construction phases in progress.

Cleotilde Lopez opened the doors of her home to us. The house has an eat-in kitchen, also made of adobe, a bedroom and a bathroom outside the house. A large vegetable garden where she grows fruit and vegetables herself. Cleotilde has everything she needs to return to living a peaceful life by contributing to the development of this process and having access to her rights as a citizen. Cleotilde is the only one of the 5 women who speaks Spanish; In fact, she holds lessons in her kitchen and her intent is to expand this idea and create a community of women to teach the language.

The next stops were visits to homes under construction. The system with Adobe and seismic resistant materials is an intense process The system with Adobe and seismic resistant materials is an intense process.

The roof, composed of a ribbed laminated aluminium covering, is able to protect against strong water infiltrations. This mantle is placed on a metal structure to secure it further, which in turn is placed on adobe blocks to complete the upper phase of the house.

The system with which the walls of the entire house are composed proves how these buildings are certified safe: a quadruple of bricks is used, which gives them greater stability. In the first layer, whole blocks are used, ending with a half in the corners. In the second, blocks divided in half are used to allow the continuity of the vertical reinforcement. Every 3 layers, a horizontal reinforcement linked to the vertical ones is positioned.

It is used in the construction La Vara de Castilla known in Guatemala as a vegetable of the bamboo family and in this case, it is used as vertical and horizontal reinforcement in brick walls. Sticks measuring 2 cm in diameter are used and are used in a single piece, straight, ripe and without shell. This element is inserted into the subfloor and must continue without interruption up to the attic crown. This is also used as a horizontal reinforcement, cut longitudinally, along the entire length of the walls and buttresses, forming a rib of 2 rods and perpendicular elements that confine it or bind these rods. To finish, the concrete floor with cement smoothing: The floor is another essential element for the health and hygiene of the house, so a layer of concrete is poured with a smooth finish for easy cleaning.

The house is certified and approved by all legal regulations and women are recognized as the official owners. In terms of women’s rights, numerous mechanisms were highlighted where gender inequalities and discrimination are real. For this reason, in 2002, the United Nations Commission on Human Rights, in its resolution 2002/49, asked the first Special R apporteu to prepare a study on adequate housing and women’s rights and decided to keep in its program the issue of gender equality in land ownership and access to and control of land. Similarly, the Human Rights Commission in its resolutions on equality has repeatedly stated that discrimination against women, in relation to the acquisition and security of land, property and housing, constitutes a violation of human rights.

What I admire about all this is how IDESAC never gave up on carrying out the fulfilment of this mission, with a State that appeared ineffective in helping and supporting this project.

Thanks to IDESAC, not only was adequate and safe housing guaranteed for minorities, but collaborative and effective action was guaranteed by women, who were and still are the driving force in the process.

I feel obliged to thank Neydy for giving Entremundos and me the opportunity to visit the 5 houses under construction, for documenting and photographing them and for providing me with all the bureaucratic and technical details that helped me write this article.

Veronica Di Maggio, Italian 32 years old. She have been living in London for 9 years and work in the fashion field. In her free time she dedicate herself to photography, focused more on documentary and series photography.