After our delegation met with Tabita Levantate, we drove to the town of Quetzaltenango, which is also known by the name Xela, shortened from the indigenous name Xelaju. Xela has large populations of the two indigenous groups K’iche and Mam. We met with Nuevos Horizontes (New Horizons), a nonprofit organization that provides a housing shelter, legal and counseling services to support women and children suffering from domestic violence. Nuevos Horizontes is a state sponsored shelter by CAIMU (Center for Integrated Support for Women, Victims of Domestic Violence).
Staff from the legal and social services team met with us and explained the organization’s history. Nuevos Horizontes founded in 19989 to support women and single mothers who were survivors from violence during the Armed Conflict. In 1993, Nuevos Horizontes changed its internal legal structure to focus on cases involving gender. Soon thereafter, the organization began providing integrated legal, psycho-social, shelter, and education programs. Nuevos Horizontes staff also work with their clients to challenge stereotypes about women popularized on radio and TV.
In November 2007, Nuevos Horizontes reached out to the police force about investigating violence against women, and divided its services into five areas, including programs that focus on teaching women self-advocacy skills. These five programmatic areas are: (1) Integrated health services focused on reproductive and sexual health (2) services focused on violence against women (3) strengthening institutions (4) sustainability (5) political advocacy.
Staff addressed how many of Nuevos Horizontes programs promote citizen participation. Currently, staff are working with public ministries on recognizing that violence is public health issue, affecting the sanitation and water supply in public areas where violence occurs.
Most of Nuevos Horizontes clients come from the indigenous K’iche and Mam cultures, and language and cultural barriers sometimes occur, such as when indigenous women residing in the shelter do not have access to their traditional clothing. The organization is also working to establish a protocol to help young girls who are victims of sexual violence. The majority of those residing in Nuevos Horizontes are between the ages of 10-14, and staff commented on a growing pattern of increased awareness and denouncements of violence against girls in this age range.
At the time our delegation met with Nuevos Horizontes, funding to the organization had been frozen and staff had not been paid for three months. When I returned to Xela in December 2012, Nuevos Horizontes was still operating, and is a popular organization for students at my language school, Proyeto Linguistico Quetzalteco to volunteer, but I do not have any information regarding their funding.
Learn More about Nuevos Horizontes
1. Asociación Nuevos Horizontes. October 15, 2012. http://www.ahnh.org/ This is the link to the official website for Nuevos Horizontes.