Saturday, August 14, 2010

Un Círculo por la Justicia

Ten years ago I was working at the Intercommunity Peace and Justice Center in Seattle, developing an empowerment program for women called Justice for Women in which groups of women meet in Women's Justice Circles for 8 weeks to learn about each other, to give voice to their dreams and realities, and to join together to take an action for justice . That program, the brainchild of IPJC Director Linda Haydock, SNJM, has had a long and lively life, and now - to my considerable surprise - it has followed me to El Salvador.

Giselle Cárcamo, who coordinates the program, got a Justice Circle started in Peru (or un círculo por la justicia - the program was translated into Spanish from the beginning, and there have been many Spanish speaking justice circles) and when I was last in Seattle, in March, she talked to me about the possibilities of starting a Justice Circle in El Salvador. I went back with the materials, but when I looked at them I was a little dismayed to remember that the stories that illustrate women working for justice came from the context of the Pacific Northwest. I assumed it wouldn't make much sense to use these materials in El Salvador without having Salvadoran stories, but I shared the program workbook with Leslie Schuld, Director of the CIS (Center for Interchange and Solidarity) and with Iris Alas, CIS community organizer for San Rafael Cedros. And I got absorbed in other work and, quite honestly, lost track of my intention to work on some local stories.

But Iris took the workbook home to read it, and she got excited. She's been working with a group of women who live in a community that has grown up around abandoned railroad tracks. They long to own their homes, and Iris decided that Justice for Women could help them organize to ask the government to deed them the land they have lived on for many years. She called a group together, and they start meeting this Sunday. Like so many great Salvadoran women I know, she just got going. May this Justice Circle be the start of great plans and strong action for these women!

And I will be working on those local stories! It seems quite likely that Iris and her circle are creating one of them.

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