October 11 marks both International Day of the Girl and Indigenous Peoples’ Day, observances that illuminate the ways gender-based violence particularly impacts those who live at the dangerous intersections of sexism, racism, and xenophobia.
Indigenous migrants—particularly women and girls and trans, queer, and two-spirit people—disproportionately experience gender-based violence and encounter additional challenges when they come to the United States in search of safety, including immigrant detention, lack of access to interpreters in their language, deportation, discrimination, and abuse.
Here’s how Mariela, a Tahirih client and one of many Indigenous women seeking safety from gender-based violence, described her experience:
“In my small hometown in Guatemala, most of my community was Indigenous. But my parents chose not to teach me and my siblings our Indigenous native language because they feared that people outside of our community would try to humiliate us. When we went to the city, people would call us ‘Indian,’ never ‘sir’ or ‘ma’am.’”
Mariela endured years of violence, including sexual assault, forced marriage, and domestic abuse, but she could not access justice in her country because she is an Indigenous woman. Fearing that her three children would face the same, she decided to seek asylum in the United States.
“Tahirih has given me hope. Even though my case was initially denied in 2019, I trust my Tahirih lawyers, who are helping me seek justice in my appeal. I want to give my children a better life here than what they would have seen in my small hometown. Even after everything I’ve lived through in Guatemala, I never want them to feel ashamed of or forget their Indigenous roots.”
Today, Mariela loves to cook, has strong faith in God, and adores seeing her children go to school. Like all other Indigenous women and girls escaping gender-based violence, she deserves justice, safety, and liberation.
In honor of Day of the Girl and Indigenous Peoples’ Day, Tahirih asks you to join us in our work to support immigrant survivors like Mariela and her children and build a future free from violence.