”Now I’m confident I have rights and appreciate the opportunity to be a part of the Collective.”
It is powerful to be in the presence of a woman who knows her value and worth. Vivian Cecilia Quisquina Coj greets us with a warm smile and an open door to her home. I was able to interview her; with a team to help translate, and photograph her at her home in Guatemala and she vulnerably shared how her involvement in The Collective of Mujeres Con Capacidad de Soñar a Colores has impacted her life.
This was part of an assignment for Photographers Without Borders.
She shared how she first was invited to be a part of The Collective, ”I learned about the Collective from another woman in the program who was a part of the government council for people with disabilities. I started coming in 2019.” She lives with her family and has three brothers and five sisters.
Being a part of the work of The Collective has changed her life, “(it has been an) Incredible change for me because before I never went out of the house before. ” As a women living with a disability that utilizes a wheelchair there is a stigma for her and she had never even gone out in society before her involvement with the Collective but now she is able “to break the barrier to not be out in society.”
She shared, “the main thing was to see other women with disabilities because I felt alone before but to see diversity of women living with disabilities changed me.“ Vivian’s participation in The Collective had more than just a personal impact, the change for her family was huge because before they were scared for her safety given the stigma in society for women with disabilities but seeing her with the community allowed them to feel safer as well. Humans were created for community and true community can change us. The changes in her emotional well being has also given her the courage to pursue education for the first time, she also started studying secondary school and now wants to be a social worker. She also proudly showed off the ramp that is now a part of their home. She advocated to have this at her school so she could easily enter the classroom and the organization that funded it allowed her to keep it after she finished her primary school studies. She is determined to not let barriers stop her from achieving her dreams.
As part of The Collective women learn about sexual and reproductive rights and Vivian shared, “it’s something new for me because I never went to school & never got education on sexual reproduction and I didn’t learn from my family either.” She shared about how empowering education about her body is was for her and reflected, “even having 1st period was very hard, I was very curious about so many things like I always wanted to understand why a period and how do you get pregnant?” Her family at that time said “a woman with disabilities doesn’t need to know those things.” She smiles as she says, “things are a lot better now!” Her sisters now know much more and one of them is studying to be a nurse. Her mom was the main block (in accepting this new education) but when she came home and was sharing what she was learning “slowly barriers and stigmas broke down.”
We asked her “what should people know about your story?”
Vivian sits tall and smiles and then shares, ”I also have rights. In Guatemala it’s not common for a woman with a disability to have a job, family, children, or a husband. I am thankful because The Collective has helped me have friends and trust others.”
”I love having a space to share and that all women are able and given space to share equally. And now I’m confident I have rights and appreciate the opportunity to be a part of the Collective.”
Her sister came to greet us and help her go outside her home because this felt so important for creating images because just a few years ago she had never gone outside the walls of her home because inequality, fear, and societal stigma kept her at home. Her new freedom in her life is worth celebrating!
In affirming her rights and sharing her story she is inspiring others, ”when I started the process was really hard and complicated but then the process became easier and now I enjoy sharing with others. I feel more calm talking and discussing these topics because now I know I have these rights and didn’t know that before.”
I am so grateful for Mujeres Con Capacidad de Soñar a Colores inviting me into the stories and lives of such amazing women. Thank you Vivian for sharing your courage and vibrance!
A visual storyteller that focuses on human emotion & connection. I help families, individuals, & couples to share their beautiful messy story.
I also partner with humanitarian, non-for-profit organizations, and NGOs share their stories with intention, dignity, & excellence, so they can have a greater impact on their communities.