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Marisol Churunel Interview: Feminism 2020

Marisol Churunel, 18 is the niece of Oralia Chopen, the President of Trama Textiles. She comes from the region of Solola but currently lives with her aunt in the city of Quetzaltenango in Guatemala at the Trama headquarters, and attends a local college where she is studying Business Administration. 

Marisol Quote: 

 “There is also a lot of institutionalised discrimination against Mayan women accessing employment. That’s why Trama is so important; because it empowers indigenous women.” 

Can you tell me a little bit about your involvement with Trama? 

I am Oralia’s niece, the President of Trama Textiles and I have lived here with her for the past 3 years. I sometimes help out by teaching weaving which I really enjoy, and I also help out in the boutique here. I love being part of an organisation which aims to help as many women as possible because it’s so necessary! 

I’m really proud of the products we craft and sell here, especially the bags and the traditional blouses. My aunt is an extremely hard working woman who helps a lot of women. It is thanks to the financial support of my aunt, and another female sponsor, that I am able to pursue my studies and future dreams. 

What kinds of issues are Mayan women facing today in Guatemala which may be different to women in other parts of the world? 

Many Mayan women don’t know how to defend their rights. They don't have chance to study and they often don't have employment opportunities. They often live in remote places where they don’t have access to resources and education. Many fathers within the community still carry the belief that only male children can aspire to work and earn money, and that the women should stay at home to raise the kids. There is a lot of violence here against women in Guatemala. There is also a lot of institutionalised discrimination against Mayan women accessing employment. That’s why Trama is so important; because it empowers indigenous women. 

What would you like to do in the future, with the education that you are receiving thanks to your aunt and your sponsor? 

I want to use the opportunity and the model which my aunt has given to me, to set up my own company. That way I can provide employment opportunities for other women, and that can uplift and empower whole communities. I would like to use the profits I make through my company to support other families in Mayan communities who are struggling. I would also like to use my administrative skills to help women who are the victims of domestic violence to file reports etc. Many Mayan women are illiterate, and this puts them at a huge disadvantage in terms of the law when it comes to filing and prosecuting perpetrators in domestic violence cases. 

If you had a daughter, what sort of opportunities would you like her to have which you perhaps didn’t when you were growing up? 

Most importantly I would like her to be able to have an education. I would also like her to have access to healthcare because that was a privilege that I didn’t have growing up. I would love for her to be able to study a wide range of subjects as the curriculum here in Guatemala is currently so limited. I’d like her to be able to study medicine for example, but also to be able to study dance, singing, English etc so that she can become whatever she wants to be. 

In which ways do you feel women are treated differently to men here in Guatemala? 

There is so much discrimination against women within the work place. There are many organisations here which don’t hire women, because there is still a belief that women don’t have the same intellectual capabilities as men. There is a perception that women are only capable of doing domestic work, and this needs to change! 

What are you most proud of in terms of your own achievements? 

I am one of the very few Mayan girls at my college who comes from a small village. The vast majority of my classmates are all from the city. So I'm really proud to represent my village here. I am the Class President (I was voted in by my classmates). So sometimes I am asked to speak at public events on behalf of the school, and sometimes I deliver training sessions for primary school children to educate them on issues around child labour and child exploitation. This makes me extremely proud that my teachers trust me to be a spokesperson to raise awareness around such important issues. 

What makes you feel the most attractive? 

When I wear my traditional hand embroidered clothes from my village I feel beautiful and so proud! When we have prom nights at college most of the kids wear western clothes, but I am one of the few who is extremely proud to show off my village’s traditional motifs and embroidery skills. 

If you could do anything in the world, what would you do? 

I would love to learn the piano, because ever since I was a small child, I have loved to sing! I would use some of the money from my clothes business to pay for piano lessons, because it's never too late to learn something new, is it? I would also love to compose my own music and write my own songs. 

Finally, which woman do you most admire and why? 

Hum…..I think the Guatemalan singer Gaby Moreno. She has a wonderful voice, and she sings traditional Guatemalan songs. Very few Guatemalan singers, particularly women, gain international acclaim so I’m very proud of her achievements. She sings about her pride in being from Guatemala and about some of the most beautiful places in our country like Lake Atitlan and Antigua, so she really helps to ‘put Guatemala on the map’ and reaches people from all over the world!