February 27, 2019 (Halifax) – From February 28 to March 9, Mayra Jimenez of the 8 Tijax collective will speak throughout the Maritimes about the ongoing struggle for justice for the 41 girls and young women killed in a fire at the state-run centre for children and youth Hogar Seguro Virgen de la Asunción in Guatemala on March 8, 2017.
The speaking tour, hosted by the Maritimes-Guatemala Breaking the Silence Network (BTS), commemorates the second anniversary of the tragedy. Events will take place in Fredericton, Sackville, Halifax, Antigonish and Tatamagouche.
While the Hogar Seguro should have been a place where vulnerable children and youth were protected, that was far from the case. Minors there were routinely subjected to sexual violence, physical abuse, forced abortion, human trafficking and forced prostitution, often by staff. They also endured poor conditions such as overcrowding and rotting food. Reports of abuse and poor conditions have been public since 2013 and were known by Guatemalan authorities.
In the early hours of March 8, 2017, police locked a group of girls and young women in a small room measuring 6.8 metres by 7 metres after they had attempted to escape the home. Despite their cries for help, the police would not let them out after a fire began inside the room. As a result, 41 girls and young women died, while 15 others were severely injured.
Members of the 8 Tijax collective immediately went to the hospitals where survivors of the fire were being admitted. There, they were tasked with sharing information such as the names of girls who had survived and those who had died with families waiting for news on the outside. Members also transported families to the hospitals and the morgue, and provided psychological assistance, as well as moral and spiritual support. After the last victim was identified, they turned their focus to accompanying 14 survivors and victims’ families through legal cases now in Guatemalan courts.
Currently, 12 people, including high-level state officials, the ex-director of the Hogar Seguro and police, face charges in connection with the Hogar Seguro tragedy. Unfortunately, these cases have faced severe delays and no one has been convicted to date.
Ms. Jimenez, an advocate for gender justice, as well as a member and co-founder of 8 Tijax, speaks about some of the work being done by the collective, saying: “…we participate in all the hearings, with the objective of accompanying and supporting families in whatever way we can.” Throughout the speaking tour, she’ll share how survivors of the tragedy are doing and what progress has been made in the ongoing struggle for justice in this case.
“For almost 2 years, justice has been delayed and denied for the 56 victims and survivors of this state crime. We call on Canada, as a “feminist” government, to speak out about this issue and to play a proactive role in advocating for gender justice for these girls,” says BTS Maritimes Coordinator Stacey Gomez.
To mark the second anniversary of the tragedy, BTS is also hosting an art exhibit throughout the Maritimes from February 1 to early April, which features commemorative portraits of each of the 41 girls killed. BTS has also launched a postcard and social media campaign urging the Canadian government for action on this issue.
BTS Maritimes Coordinator
BTS is a voluntary network of people in the Maritimes who began to organize in 1988 to support the efforts of Guatemalans struggling for political, social, and economic justice. Today, BTS has committees in Fredericton, Halifax, Charlottetown, the North Shore, Fredericton, and Antigonish. BTS engages in human rights accompaniment, public education and political advocacy around key issues such as the following: defense of territory; gender justice; truth, justice and impunity; and security. For more information, visit us here.
Speaking tour events:
Sat. Mar 2 @ 6pm
144 Main St.
Mount Allison University
Sun. Mar 3 @ 2-3:30pm
Glitter Bean Cafe
Fri. Mar 8 @ 2:30-4:30pm
Community Room, People’s Place Library
Sat. Mar 9 @ 3pm