Norma Cruz: Seeking Justice and Dignity for Guatemalan Women
Through my work as a Political Officer at the U.S. Embassy in Guatemala, I have gotten to know Guatemalan human rights activist Norma Cruz and her organization very well. Norma Cruz is one of eight women worldwide named “2009 International Women of Courage,” and for Norma, the fight for justice and dignity for Guatemalan women is a personal and lifelong battle. As co-founder and director of the NGO Survivors Foundation, Norma has worked tirelessly and courageously to defend female victims of domestic and sexual violence, trafficking in persons, and illegal adoptions. Through her foundation, she has provided emotional, social, and legal support to hundreds of female victims seeking justice and protection. She has fought for justice and human dignity in a country where women have been marginalized and violence against women has been tolerated. She says that there is no sweeter justice for a victim than to see her aggressor being sentenced.
Fighting to ensure justice in Guatemala is a dangerous undertaking with little security. At great risk to her own physical safety and that of her family, she has gone to extraordinary lengths to seek justice for Guatemala’s daughters, mothers, and women who are not able to defend themselves. It is not death, however, that Norma fears, but rather a Guatemala that won’t change. Her struggle is a struggle to change Guatemalan society.
During one of my visits to Norma’s office, I asked her about the numerous photos of women and young girls that decorated the walls. She was able to recount the name and heartbreaking story behind each photo. They are photos of the victims whose cases she is following and for whom she seeks justice. These women and girls remind Norma that she does not have the luxury of “giving up out of hopelessness; these women are witnesses to our commitment to fight for justice.”
As a result of the tireless efforts of Norma and her staff at the Survivor’s Foundation, some of Guatemala’s women have found the justice and dignity that had been out of reach. In 2007 alone, her foundation helped investigate, prosecute, and convict 30 individuals accused of murdering women. Norma is an inspiration and symbol of courage and hope to women in Guatemala and women everywhere who are working for positive change.