Women’s Empowerment and Safety: A Project to Create Awareness about the MMIW Epidemic

Mar 27, 2023 | Blog, Featured Post, Indigenous Visionaries, Our Programs

Indigenous Visionaries Fellow Nical Glasses sets up a booth during the Diné College Warrior Week to showcase her project, highlight future events, and solicit feedback in return for incentives.

By Nical Glasses, Indigenous Visionaries Fellow

Yá’át’ééh (Hello)! Shí éí Nical Glasses yinishyé. Ádóone’é nishlínígíí éí Tłaáshchi’i nishłį́; Táchii’nii ’éí bá shíshchíín; Kinyaa’áanii ’éí dashicheii; Tó’aheedliinií ’éí dashinálí. Tséchiłbitó déé’ eí naashá. Ákót’éego diné asdzáání nishłį́.

I am a student-intern at Diné College pursuing a baccalaureate in business administration and a 2022-2023 Indigenous Visionaries Native Women Leadership fellow. My community-based project (The Indigenous Woman Resilience Project) will focus on advocacy to empower women and create awareness about safety concerning the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women (MMIW) epidemic. My project will address what causes cases to rise, will amplify sensitive topics in open discussions and surveys, and will provide accessibility to resources to deal with violence towards women across the Navajo Nation.

Nitsáhákees (Thinking). Growing up on the Navajo reservation, missing persons reports were displayed everywhere I went. At first, I avoided standing in front of these reports as they carried heavy emotions as I thought about the families who were searching for answers, some of which were close community members that I knew. I was too young to understand the extent of the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Relatives epidemic but eventually I began to learn about the complexities of violence and injustice in rural communities.

The Indigenous Women Resilience Project Fellowship logo created by the fellow for references. Instagram: @theindigenouswxmrezproject

As I grew older, I recognized the importance about advocacy and awareness for Indigenous communities about this epidemic. I knew that my community could benefit from a stronger platform to combat violence and highlight women-empowerment and safety and my project was created specifically to focus on violence against Indigenous women.

Nahat’á (Planning). Through the College Fund’s Indigenous Visionaries Fellowship, I gained immense support, guidance, and resources needed to address Native women empowerment to combat violence against women in our communities.

My project, The Indigenous Women Resilience Project, is divided into three segments. Each will include a series of at least three workshops throughout the length of fellowship grant. They are (1) Safety Classes and Training—facilitated workshops to give more hands-on guidance on how to protect oneself; (2) Self-Care and Reflection—hosted workshops will keep participants grounded and healthy; (3) Informative Presentations—I will host and provide a platform to organizations and individuals to advocate for and provide more resources to the public.

The Indigenous Women Resilience Project Fellowship logo created by the fellow for references. Instagram: @theindigenouswxmrezproject

Iiná (Implementation). I have met with various grassroot organizations and individuals that supported my vision and provided more outreach opportunities. I recently hosted several class trainings and presentations that focused on self-defense and situational awareness that emphasized the importance of safety and wellness. I gathered feedback from participants, most of which supported my project, asked how to get more involved, and sought out more information about the MMIW epidemic.

Self-Defense Keychain. Indigenous Visionaries Fellow Nical Glasses distributed versions of this keychain to protect participants. Items included pepper spray, safe-sound alarm, pocket-knife, emergency whistle, kubotan, and door locks.

My efforts will not only teach me how to become an advocate but will provide me with critical resources for community members who may not be aware of the issue. I will create more positive pathways for individuals and activities to strengthen and heal themselves.

Siihasin (Reflection). As a “rez kid” it has been a goal of mine to create a safer environment for future generations to come. I learned that by taking on the role of an advocate, I will need both holistic approaches and the courage to take up spaces to converse about generational trauma. At the same time, being an advocate is a tremendous responsibility that can be overwhelming but also very rewarding. As an old Navajo proverb states: T’áá hwó ájít’éego (Success starts with you).

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