TZK’AT Network of Ancestral Healers of Community Feminism – Human Rights Tulip Nominee 2020
‘One day we were in a safe situation and we started crying and felt how important it was to join forces and understand that we have something of value and a source of great strength: the knowledge of our ancestors. That’s why we call ourselves healers; we began to speak seriously about how we could no longer just fight and resist, but also needed to work to restore our bodies, so that they are invigorated and have the strength to fight, heal and live in dignity,’ said Lorena Cabnal in an interview with Entremundos. Lorena is an ancestral healer, territorial community feminist and member of the TZK’AT Network of Ancestral Healers of Community Feminism, from Iximulew in Guatemala.
The TZK'AT Network of Ancestral Healers of Community Feminism from Iximulew brings together indigenous women defending life, women’s rights, natural resources and territory, in different regions of Guatemala. The organisation was founded in October 2015 by 10 women human rights defenders, with the aim of mentoring and supporting each other. All of them have suffered persecution, stigmatisation, death threats, territorial displacement, criminalisation and sexual violence.
The network of women healers carries out its work in a country where defending human rights is particularly dangerous if you are a woman and an indigenous person. These human rights defenders are especially vulnerable. The threats and harassment they suffer make them afraid and anxious, and have major psychological, emotional and physical repercussions. Many of them are currently living outside their original regions, as they had to leave to protect their lives and physical safety.
So all of them have seen how the fight against various forms of violence in Guatemala affects indigenous women in particular. They have heard how important it is for many women to support and heal each other. All of them have experience of ancestral healing processes and work in indigenous communities as healers, midwives, and herbalists for example. The network of women healers offers psychosocial care to human rights defenders who are at risk, providing emotional, spiritual and physical stability for their recovery from the abuses they have suffered in their work.
The network has provided emotional, physical, spiritual and political assistance and support to Mayan women survivors of sexual violence in the context of the Guatemalan civil war, which lasted 36 years. It also works alongside women human rights defenders who suffer criminalisation, sexual violence and femicide due to their involvement in human rights defence. During the COVID-19 pandemic, the TZK'AT Network of Ancestral Healers has continued to assist women human rights defenders and their families. It has given special attention to women affected by the virus. Over the years, the network has helped form the basis for community and territorial feminism as an epistemology that offers women and communities around the world the opportunity to analyse their oppressive realities and provides them with the tools to heal themselves and others.