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My journey to peace work

by Dorothy Granada

In 1978 I came to a realization of nonviolence. I was directed to the Fellowship of Reconciliation in Portland, Oregon and there my journey began in earnest. We tried to remove the death penalty in Oregon, close the Trojan Nuclear Plant, and, no less, stop the nuclear arms race. In 1997 F.O.R. awarded me the International Pfeffer Peace Prize.

During the Fast for Life in 1983 we mobilized with others over the world to bring about a nuclear weapons freeze. Before the 40-day fast ended, we fasters were visited by a small group of folks, the newly born Witness for Peace, who were preparing to place themselves, unarmed, between the Nicaraguan people and the Contra, the surrogate army of the United States. This audacious idea appealed to Charles Gray, my partner, and me.

Early in 1985, while traveling to Nicaragua to join other volunteers in Witness for Peace, our Quaker friend, David Hartsough, asked us to stop in Guatemala City, to lend a hand to another friend, Fr. Alain Richard, with Peace Brigades International (PBI), who was providing support to the Grupo de Apoyo Mutuo (Families of the Disappeared). Thus, began the accompaniment program of PBI with the Families of the Disappeared who were themselves being threatened, kidnapped, tortured, and killed by para-military death squads.

A valuable lesson I learned in Guatemala was that one could be absolutely terrified and still carry on with the task at hand. The lesson served me well as we lived and worked in the war zones of Nicaragua.

Following Witness for Peace and creating and traveling with the beautiful photo–poetry exhibit Que Sos Nicaragua? (What are You, Nicaragua?), I turned my attention to the health needs of Nicaraguan campesinas.

In 1990, I was invited to join a cooperative of war-displaced campesinas in Mulukuku in rural Nicaragua who were working to rebuild their lives and community. With the support of friends in the States and allies in Nicaragua, we developed a health service for women and their families. Last year, after 20 years, I left the cooperative.

My present work is to contribute to reducing maternal and infant mortality in the mountains of northern Nicaragua. We are working with traditional midwives and other community health workers by providing essential supplies, training and accompaniment.

Though the health system in Nicaragua has improved greatly since 1997, women continue to die in childbirth. These women live in conditions of poverty far from health facilities; have little awareness of the importance of medical care during pregnancy and birthing. These women probably have male partners and other family members who make decisions for the women and who themselves place no importance on health care for a process that had always seemed natural and with few problems. Some of those who die are barely out of childhood. When women or girls die it is “God’s will”.

Others and I, with the support of the Women’s Empowerment Network, are assisting the Nicaraguan Ministry of Health in the Department of Matagalpa in a Pilot Project in Skills to Save Lives to train and accompany 100 traditional midwives and other community health workers who live and work in the most remote areas of the Department where women are at high risk of illness and death during pregnancy and birthing.

Dorothy Granada has worked for 25 years providing health care to women in rural Nicaragua. Her work has been recognized both nationally and internationally. Among the awards received:

  • International Pfeffer Peace Prize of the Fellowship of Reconciliation
  • Dr. Hugo Behm Award of the Central American Institute of international Health
  • Best Practices in Community Health of the World Health Council
  • The Order of Rubén Darío of the Government of Nicaragua


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