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Sonia Segura, Guatemala
Congresswoman Sonia Segura from Guatemala is an active proponent for women’s rights in her traditionally patriarchal society. Segura has committed herself to combat challenges facing women in Guatemala which prevent them from political participation, including their lack of self esteem and poverty which often precludes women from travel to trainings or political events.
Segura is one of only 20 female members of the unicameral congress in Guatemala. These women have formed an effective coalition which has been able to pass human rights legislation, including a landmark law making violence against women a crime; a law against the harassment of children; and legislation addressing child labor regulations. The coalition recently drafted legislation to introduce a quota system in the Guatemalan government to ensure that women have an opportunity to govern; currently, there are no female court justices or cabinet members in Guatemala, and women make up only 12 percent of congress. The draft legislation is a contentious issue and if it becomes law the advocates will have once again demonstrated their ability to create and manage coalitions.
A former social worker, Segura was widowed at age 26 with two small children when her husband was killed during Guatemala’s civil war and relocated temporarily to Mexico where she first became engaged with women’s issues. These experiences led to her current passions of women’s empowerment and migrants’ issues.
Segura also serves as an advisor to the Women’s Democracy Network’s (WDN) Guatemala country chapter. She recently worked with WDN to share her experiences as a legislator with the newly elected female members of the Sudanese Southern Legislative Assembly (SSLA). Similar to Guatemala, the Government of Southern Sudan had been historically dominated by men. A quota system, implemented during the 2010 general elections, helped raise representation of women in the SSLA to more than 25 percent. However, many of the women will be taking office for the first time and will be unfamiliar with parliamentary procedure and face challenges to succeed as legislators. They will also face challenges in passing and implementing gender-sensitive legislation that seeks to improve the lives of women in Southern Sudan.
During an August 2010 conference held in Juba, Sudan, Segura addressed the more than 120 participants via video, encouraging the women and reminding them that “Even though the distance separates us, there are a lot of things that join us. That is the reason that today, for me, it is an honor and a great pleasure to greet you and express to you my kindness and respect. I encourage you to continue fighting together to reach our common goals as women. I offer you my support and my willingness to help as a Guatemalan Congresswoman improving and promoting activities that benefits women.”