SIPAZ was founded in 1995 and is a permanent program which is supported by an international coalition of civil organizations and religious groups. SIPAZ plays a role in preventing socio-political violence in the communities of the Mexican state of Chiapas, as well as the states of Oaxaca and Guerrero, in southern Mexico. SIPAZ operates from a perspective of non-violence that stresses the construction of a positive peace in these states.
SIPAZ has identified three primary areas of work:
Accompaniment of women and/or women's groups in rural areas of southern Mexico:
Contacts are maintained and strengthened with women's groups and women's organizations in Chiapas as well as in Oaxaca and Guerrero. These organizations are visited, as well as various forums, press conferences, and assemblies are being held. Marches by these women's organizations and groups are advocated on issues such as violence against women and women's rights. The project continues its close connection with the Roman Catholic Women’s Commission (CODIMUJ). Implementation of workshops in additional communities are planned with the expansion of participation of members of other organizations.
Generate increased attention on women's roles in peace processes:
The SIPAZ blog posts information about gender issues, women's struggles, violence against women, women's organizations, female human rights defenders, etc. Articles are written on gender issues for the quarterly newsletter of SIPAZ, which is published in Spanish, English, German, and French. Also, 3,500 printed reports are distributed every three months in indigenous communities where the contents on gender issues may have a direct impact.
Generate an integral gender perspective within SIPAZ's activities:
Internal workshops on planning, monitoring, and evaluating processes are planned for staff members in order for them to integrate gender with specific objectives, strategies, and activities. Gender is not only the priority of the persons working on this issue within SIPAZ, but of the whole team.
Although many SIPAZ workshops are exclusively for women, the presence of men is also encouraged. Having men in the workshops creates a positive exchange of ideas between women and men bringing interesting insights to the discussions and reflections. Language is frequently a difficulty because not all SIPAZ staff persons speak the indigenous language of the region, which is ch'ol, and many of the indigenous women do not speak Spanish. The project plans look for women in the communities who can help, both with the preparation and the evaluation of the workshops, as well as with translation during them.
Update on the SIPAZ Women and Peace Project
The SIPAZ Women and Peace Project has identified areas of need and has worked on them during 2013:
Area 1: Accompaniment of women and/or women's groups in rural areas of southern Mexico
In 2013 SIPAZ accompanied a wide range of activities promoted by organized women, mostly in Chiapas. During many field-trips made in 2013, they were able to obtain interviews with women, getting their perspectives on what was happening in their regions. For observation missions, the presence of SIPAZ enabled the successful development of brigades, reports on documented cases of abuse, and, without attributing this result to the missions as such (much less to SIPAZ alone), threats have ceased or decreased. In one case, although the underlying problem is far from solved, the signing of a pact allowed the relocation of displaced men and women close to the zone they are from.
Area 2: Information In Promotion Of Action
SIPAZ seeks to increase attention and awareness of the difficulties experienced by women in politico-social conflicts in the Mexican states of Chiapas, Oaxaca, and Guerrero, and to visualize their contribution in the processes of peace, reconciliation, and justice.
In 2013, two articles were published in the quarterly report on issues affecting women and/or their organizational processes. In Focus: Violence against Women one article “In Mexico they forget to punish those responsible” was published in the December report, and a second article, “Caretakers of the people and the land in light of barriers to effective participation of women and youth”, in the February edition. At least one article each month was also published on the SIPAZ blog, most of the entries were on femicides, a problem existing in the three Mexican states mentioned above.
Area 3: Peace Promotion/Peace Education
SIPAZ seeks to provide forums for exchange and training for women in indigenous communities.
In 2013, SIPAZ had less workshops on "Gender and Peace" in indigenous communities in the Northern Zone, but a lot of new training spaces were opened with more chance of impact, due to the participation of more organized women.
Area 4: Training
In December 2013, SIPAZ conducted an internal workshop on "security and gender."
SIPAZ continues to face challenges but is motivated to continue forward. One of their participants, who survived an attack after protesting that mining companies were causing the destruction of natural resources, especially clean water, states: “More than anything else, I would like to thank all the organizations and all the people who have supported us and who have contributed to my recovery. I want to tell you that I will continue to fight. I have hope that one day this mining company is going to get out of this community. I give my thanks to all of the other organizations that fight against mining projects or to save the water. I have hope that one day they will stop using our natural resources and that we will be able to save them. We are the ones who need these resources. The people and companies that come to our community want our resources so that they can enrich themselves - not because they really need them."