Diakonia - People change the world

Guatemala: Women work for their rights

The Diakonia partner Asociación Por Nosotras Ixmukané in Guatemala is a network of women and local women’s organizations in the rural Quiché region in the north of the country. Ixmukané’s work is focused on supporting women from the indigenous Maya majority in Quiché, defending their rights to healthcare, education, political participation and a life free from violence.

Working for women’s rights in rural Guatemala

In Guatemala women still have a long way to go to achieve equality and full respect for their human rights. Abortion is still illegal, the maternal mortality rate is among the highest in Latin America and every year thousands of girls end up getting pregnant, often as a result of sexual violence.

Threats and harassments are common

Working for women’s rights in Guatemala is not an easy job. Threats, attacks and harassments are common. That is why the women in this article have asked us to not publish their names.

Asociación Por Nosotras Ixmukané organises over a thousand women in northern Guatemala with the aim of informing, educating and organising women in favour of their human rights. Ixmukané also works to prevent violence against women and attend women survivors of domestic violence.

"The sad truth is that the Guatemalan authorities lack any serious interest in defending the rights of Mayan women. Poor Mayan women are forced to wait for hours to see a lawyer or a government official, if we are ever attended at all. This is why it is so important that we as Ixmukané know the law and demand our rights," says one of Ixmunkané’s experts on law and human rights.

Her work consists of accompanying women who have survived domestic violence; she helps them file a report with the police and supports them throughout the judicial process.

Traditional midwives

Ixmukané’s network also includes the organisation Saqwichomab Mayab (”The Wise” in English). The members of Saqwichomab Mayab are traditional midwives from rural communities in northern Guatemala.

"We were taught by our mothers and grandmothers how to help pregnant women and support a woman through child birth. We also know how to cure diseases using traditional methods," says one woman who is taking part in a training course with Ixmukané to meet other midwives and learn more about her human rights.

The national health service in Guatemala is underfinanced and poorly developed. The women of Saqwichomab Mayab are often the only health personnel available to serve the rural communities. Their work is of utmost importance for these communities yet they are often faced with racist or discriminatory attitudes by representatives of the state or official hospitals. 

"Thanks to the work done by Ixmukané to organize women and demand our rights, the authorities can no longer ignore us. Nowadays, when hospital staff or staff at the prosecutor’s office see that Ixmukané is accompanying a woman or helping her case they always make sure to speed up the process", says one representative from Ixmukané.