By Neha Channan, CEIU
Youth Delegate 2018
Guatemala is a country that has been shaped and continues to be shaped by the strength of the women it is comprised of. In political, social, and cultural aspects, women in Guatemala stand in solidarity with each other and support the movement towards advancing labour, dignity, and justice for all members of society. This movement creates the opportunity for real change to occur, in a society that struggles to eradicate and attempt to recover from the damages of colonialism, ever-present discrimination, and other forms of disparity that exist for the greater part of the Guatemalan population.
Politically, the election of Sandra Moran into Congress, as the first woman who publically identifies as LGBT made history in 2015 in Guatemala. As a member of the Convergence Party, or the progressive party of Guatemala, she fights for human rights and equality on a daily basis. Moran was no stranger to politics and leadership roles, as she was once a part of King Lalit, a political music band. Moran fled Guatemala and sought refugee status in Canada in 1991, and lived in exile for 14 years. Despite this history, today she stands in the Government and proposes for change, ignoring the threats and campaigns against her. Moran is currently working towards two laws: violence against women (LGBT aggravated) and gender equality. To this, she has been attacked for presenting these laws and ideas, but this does not waver her. Moran believes that there are five aspects of life, which are body, land, nature, history, and memory that are all being taken by corruption and damaging perspectives. She believes the fight against corruption for these aspects of life is necessary, and promotes respect for Indigenous voices and the focus on human rights with commerce.
Mayra Jimenez of the Ochos Tijax organization is another example of women of Guatemala, who have risen to fight for those who could not fight for themselves, and support survivors and find justice. On March 8, 2017 a government-run shelter for the protection of girls caught on fire, killing 41 girls and severely burning 15 girls. Myra, her daughter, and several other women who were not social workers my profession or lawyers, rose together to help put the pieces together of the tragedy and fight the government officials who are responsible for the treatment of the children and those who did not set the children free during the fire or attempt to rescue them. Without any background or knowledge, the women of Ochos Tijax have been relentless in pursing justice, and providing love and aid for the families of the victims and survivors. The selfless actions of these women have shown strength, as there is cases that have been brought to the legal system and the organization pressure the government, despite potential threats.
Rosa and Angelica Choc are community leaders, who are fighting to defend natural resources of Guatemala, human rights, and territory. The Guatemalan government previously and currently allows countries direct access to their natural resources, without protection for the people who reside in those areas. Rose and Angelina Choc understand the struggle of Mayans against Canadian and American companies on territory firsthand, as in 2004 and 2005 the HudBay Minerals mining Company violated their rights, and this led to evictions in 2006/2007/2008. In 2009, this resulted in the murder of Angelica’s husband Adolfo Ich who was a respected community leader. The company continues to attack rights, with the threats against them and loved ones is ever-present and a reality for these women. Despite this, they continue to fight the legal battle for justice, and are criminalized as the authorities of the Guatemalan government do not support them and the journalists who report on this are arrested for telling the truth. Rosa acts as a representative for 11 women who are survivors of the evictions, in a court where the judge and accused together made fun of her and called names. Regardless, this does not stop her from continuing to fight for justice, in a fight that is still being fought today.
Within the CCDA or Comité Campesino del Altiplano, a grassroots organization of Guatemala, women have joined leadership positions and helped defend Mayans against the violation of human rights, impunity, and discrimination to maintain social, economic, and cultural respect. The core principles include equitable land distribution, carrying out sustainable agricultural development, and encouraging the economic empowerment of women. The CCDA is a new model of organization for men and women, and their recognition from the organization that training is needed, resources, and tech support – all of which women play a crucial role in. Within the organization, a few of the women in leadership include Lubia and Neydi. Patio, corn, and mixed planting are all systems that are appropriated by women, with the goal to secure food sovereignty and food security. Many women have also taken the leap into the workforce and taken administrative roles in the CCDA, such as Jessica, Angelica-Garcia, and Victoria, and steps to be a part of change because they believe in pressuring the government to provide a better system, development for children and women, and supporting communities. They do this despite any negative reaction from the home or community, because they believe in standing in solidarity with those who are already fighting and contributing towards positive transformation. Together, the women and men of the CCDA fight for human rights and agricultural reform in Guatemala.