Connect Blog

  • Angelina Aspuac of AFEDES and the National Weaver’s Movement receives their official bill (number 5247) at the Congress of the Republic in Guatemala City
    Angelina Aspuac of AFEDES and the National Weaver’s Movement receives their official bill (number 5247) at the Congress of the Republic in Guatemala City
  • Milvian Aspuac, director of AFEDES, joins in making tamales during the harvest ceremony in San Martín Jilotepeque
    Milvian Aspuac, director of AFEDES, joins in making tamales during the harvest ceremony in San Martín Jilotepeque
  • A member of one of AFEDES’ community groups poses in front of her home garden, which boasts a mix of edible and medicinal plants
    A member of one of AFEDES’ community groups poses in front of her home garden, which boasts a mix of edible and medicinal plants
  • Dancing at a harvest ceremony and festival in San Martín Jilotepeque, birthplace of the campesino a campesino methodology
    Dancing at a harvest ceremony and festival in San Martín Jilotepeque, birthplace of the campesino a campesino methodology
  • AFEDES members and supporters march for International Women’s Day in Guatemala City
    AFEDES members and supporters march for International Women’s Day in Guatemala City
  •   A member of one of AFEDES’ community groups poses with her daughter in front of their worm composting bin
    A member of one of AFEDES’ community groups poses with her daughter in front of their worm composting bin

On my first day volunteering with WhyHunger partner AFEDES (Women’s Association for the Development of Sacatepéquez, Guatemala), I visited a community in San Antonio Aguas Calientes with self-proclaimed “agro-eco-feminist” Mercedes Monzón. Held at the home of one of AFEDES’s members, the meeting’s objective was to learn about the low-impact pesticide lime sulfur and to make a big batch for the group of 10 women to share. In one morning, these goals were met and more. We drank mosh (a sweet oat-based drink) followed by a savory atol (a warm corn-based drink) topped with beans and ground pumpkin seed. As we sipped and worked, group members also shared their frustrations and successes, whether it was a sickness affecting their hens or a bountiful harvest of medicinal plants from their herb garden. AFEDES meetings create these safe spaces for women to come together, to get away from their worries at home and to focus on improving their livelihoods.

Although many members of AFEDES have barely finished primary or secondary school, they keep attendance, minutes, financial records, and plan for their futures. Women in rural communities form organized groups and elect their own presidents, treasurers, and promoters, who become leaders, supporting their compañeras in anything from taking legal action against domestic violence to learning new weaving techniques. These groups later report to the general assembly at AFEDES, which also has its own leadership structure. This dynamic builds networks of solidarity among women within and across communities. I found this especially powerful in a world where women are taught to compete against each other rather than work together. 

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Olga Zet, vice president of AFEDES, shows support for the Weaver’s Movement.

After wrapping up in San Antonio, we headed to Santiago Sacatepéquez, home of AFEDES headquarters, where we found the office staff in a workshop on bio-energy. I certainly did not expect to receive a chiropractic adjustment on my first day as a volunteer, but I happily obliged after a two-day bus journey through the mountains of Chiapas and Guatemala. After our adjustments, a naturopath led us through a series of energy-balancing processes to center our minds and bodies. Even though I had quite literally just met everyone in the room, I felt a certain unity and connection as we flowed through the different energy centers of our bodies.

Milvian Aspuac, director of AFEDES, later explained to me that workshops like this are part of the holistic approach the organization takes towards building autonomy among indigenous women and their communities. This vision of autonomy includes physical, political, and economic facets of life. For example, reclaiming women’s health, both physically and spiritually, is one of the important pillars of physical autonomy. AFEDES is also guided by the principle of Utz’ K’aslemal, their response as Kaqchikel women to “buen vivir” policies in countries like Bolivia and Ecuador. The ultimate mission is to defend life itself.

Milvian pointed to a large wasps’ nest outside her office window. “We don’t kill these wasps because they are life,” she explained. When there is a march to defend water, AFEDES will be there because water is life. When communities organize against a mining project, AFEDES will be there because land is life. This political clarity is a result of over 20 years of organizing, during which AFEDES has seen many changes in its vision and mission. Through a restructuring process in 2012, the women focused on their core values by asking themselves, “What do we really want?” The answer wasn’t more money or more things, but simply to live well, vivir bien, Utz’ K’aslemal.

With this perspective, elements that might seem disconnected at first soon become inseparable. My first week with AFEDES, I attended a harvest festival and ceremony in the mountains of Chimaltenango and the next day I joined the National Weavers’ Movement in the capitol presenting legal reforms to protect indigenous textile designs (their proposal was accepted in February and is now awaiting approval from the Commission of Indigenous Peoples). Through these experiences, I saw first-hand how women and their communities are organizing and building resilience from the ground up. It’s all part of defending the web of life. 

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Weaving class at AFEDES headquarters in Santiago Sacatepéquez.

I arrived at AFEDES with an interest in gender and food sovereignty, which began with learning to grow my own vegetables in my mom’s garden and led me to study Human Ecology with a focus in sustainable food systems at College of the Atlantic in Maine. I was especially drawn to AFEDES’s focus on gender and racism in addressing problems in the food system, as a revolution without intersectionality is no revolution at all. What I gained over the six weeks I spent immersed in this community was more than I could have hoped for: I left with a much more complete vision of the kind of world I want to live in and the steps I can take to make that a reality.

As I watched from afar the social movements making waves back home in the U.S., from a pipeline resistance in my home state of New Jersey, to dairy workers organizing for better protections and wages in Vermont, I began to see them all connected in the bigger fight to defend life itself. On many occasions I asked myself, “What would my Utz’ K’aslemal look like without the confines and pressures of capitalism, patriarchy, and racism? What does autonomy mean to me?” I certainly don’t have all the answers, but I think I am beginning to ask the right questions.

Partner Spotlight: FENSUAGRO

CATAYDRA BROWN , APRIL 14, 2017 tagged as agroecology food sovereignty
We’re happy to share the good news that The National Federation of Farmers and Cattle (FENSUAGRO) – Colombia has recently held the inauguration of the first class of students at the “Maria Cano” Latin American Agroecology Institute (IALA). FENSUAGRO is a agricultural workers’ union where its members work to maintain their training center, grow coffee, vegetables and raise small animals. The new agroecology class has been made possible through support from WhyHunger’s International Solidarity Fund that provided the initial funds to rehabilitate the Raul Valbuena Training Center to serve as a space for agroecology classes to peasant families in Colombia. The first...
WhyHunger’s International Solidarity Fund helps to support MST’s efforts to train teachers and young people in Agroecology and help them to develop educational practices to teach Agroecology in elementary and high schools in Brazil. We are excited to share this announcement from MST. Egídio Brunetto, the Popular School of Agroecology and Agroforestry, launched in partnership with Expressão Popular publishing company, its first Training Book "Agroecology in Basic Education: Suggestions for Content and Methodology." Grounded in the mistica and the symbolism of collective work, the launch was attended by local authorities, Leftist organizations, students and educators of Agrarian Reform settlements.  The content of the...
This post first appeared in The Huffington Post. President Trump calls his first federal budget “America First: A Blueprint to Make America Great Again. It is more like “A Blueprint to Make America Poor Again.” Who is right? What are the REAL FACTS? The choices that our elected officials make in the budget will determine so much of what our country invests in and how we prosper in the coming years. But it goes beyond the dollars and cents to determine what America stands for and which way our moral compass is pointing. Are we a nation that stands for “Justice for...
We are excited to continue our powerful Food Justice Voices series in 2017 beginning with El Sueño Americano – The American Dream. Food Justice Voices is intended to amplify the voices and experiences of grassroots leaders that aren’t heard enough, while creating awareness and educating readers on various issues connected...

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Mark your calendars! We’re thrilled to announce that the annual WhyHunger Chapin Awards event will be held on Tuesday, June 13th at the Edison Ballroom in NYC. This will be a special evening of music and activism honoring musician and Late Show with Stephen Colbert bandleader Jon Batiste for his...

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I will not forget the first time I read Through Her Eyes: The Struggle for Food Sovereignty, WhyHunger’s latest publication that “features a series of dialogues between women organizers, farmers and farmworkers who are fighting for food sovereignty in the face of industrial agriculture and bringing just and sustainable food...

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This post first appeared in The Huffington Post. “No problem can be solved on the same level of consciousness that created it.” - Albert Einstein Our current governmental situation is unlike any we have faced as a nation throughout our history. It is not a problem of liberal against conservative, Republican against...

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Just in time for International Women’s Day, WhyHunger is excited to release our newest publication “Through Her Eyes: The Struggle for Food Sovereignty.” International Women’s Day is a global day celebrating the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women. We know that women are responsible for 60-80% of food...

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Welcome to WhyHunger’s Connect Blog featuring stories, projects and articles from the community-based organizations, organizers and social movements that are building the movement for food justice.

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