By: Maria Reyes

Photo: Xinka Parliament

November 25th commemorates International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women. As such, we honor the leading role women play in the resistance and defense of territory. 

November 25th was designated as the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women at the United Nations General Assembly on December 17th, 1999. Violence against women is defined as “all violent acts which result in or could result in physical, sexual or psychological harm or suffering to women, including threats of such acts, coercion or arbitrary deprivation of liberty, whether occurring in public or in private life.”

Women from all social classes, backgrounds, and ages in Guatemala face inequality in relation to men. This disadvantage occurs in all social spheres: economic, political, and cultural. They face gender discrimination in the family, at work, in church, in the streets, etc. 

Within this context, women have fought to build a more just and equal society for all. Among their struggles, we find the defense of the environment and in the most recent decades, the presence of women in the resistance against extractivism has taken center stage. This brings to attention womens’ close relationship with water, the earth, the forests, and mother earth. Many Xinka and mestiza women have played an important role in defense of territory against the Escobal mining project during the Peaceful Resistance of Santa Rosa, Jalapa, and Jutiapa and in the Women’s Commission of the Xinka Parliament. 

The role of women in resistance has not been easy: many have been confronted with challenges from within their own families and community. Sometimes it is believed that women are not capable, when they have demonstrated many times that they are. In most cases they are at the forefront of the defense of rights. On the other hand, women in the resistance teach us to understand the territory as an integral space that guarantees the reproduction of life and collective struggles.

Women who rise in this way as principal actors in the resistance overcome the obstacles of a patriarchal society in order to situate themselves at the forefront of the resistance. Women organizing in defense of the land construct a space of freedom from which they reclaim their right to defend life, respect, and to be part of the change and fight towards equality for opportunities for women, youth, men, and children.