Despite major advances in women’s rights in Guatemala since the signing of the 1996 Peace Accords, women, in particular those from indigenous populations, still experience high levels of social exclusion. Only 2 per cent of the municipalities are run by women; more than 4,000 girls between 10-14 years of age give birth every year; and illiteracy among indigenous women is more than four times higher than that of non-indigenous men.
To address this high level of social exclusion, and in line with Security Council resolution 1325, which calls for “an increased representation of women at all decision-making levels in […] institutions and mechanisms for the prevention, management and resolution of conflict”, DPPA has been working with partners to ensure the delivery of the WPS agenda through women’s equal and meaningful participation in the peace and security arena.
In 2020, the upheaval caused by COVID-19 meant adapting the way we deliver these activities. But the public-health restrictions imposed around the world have also opened up new avenues for us to engage and potentially increase our impact on the ground. Virtual platforms present an array of opportunities for cost-effective capacity-building initiatives. Working remotely, DPPA supported a group of young women social leaders, including indigenous and of African descent from across Guatemala, to enhance their role in political and decision-making spaces and sustaining peace initiatives. “We, women, are bearers of the culture of peace,” said one of the participants. “We are doing our part to build the just world we want.”
The around 30 participants in the DPPA training in Guatemala took part in a virtual course on dialogue, negotiation skills and peacebuilding, tailored to their personal experiences and incorporating information on women’s specific roles in conflicts. DPPA was able to facilitate access to internet for those participants who needed it, which enabled the participation of women located in remote parts of the country, thus expanding the grassroot networks of women that engage with the UN Country Team in Guatemala to inform decision-making and programing. The participants made several recommendations on strategic areas of focus for UN engagement with indigenous peoples, ranging from education and technical assistance to food security and access to justice.
We asked some of the women social leaders who participated in the course about their experience:
Legal representative of the NGO Swan Tinamit Nahualá and Director of the Escuela de Facilitación de la Creatividad for women entrepreneurs in Guatemala
My parents taught me that happiness lies within your contribution to a more humane and equitable society, which prioritizes peace as an essential element of coexistence. I’ve been involved with non-governmental organizations since I was 12. Later, I co-founded some organizations to support the indigenous women in my community who were marginalized, discriminated against or suffered from domestic violence. I have contributed to the resolution of local conflicts regarding the educational system in the department of Sololá and promoted dialogue to reduce the territorial conflict between the municipalities of Nahualá and Santa Catarina Ixtahuacán. The training I received through DPPA is now my main working tool. It has helped me understand that being assertive is fundamental at the negotiating table. My team is now reviewing how we approach contentious issues and this has changed the way we work. I am now more aware that peace is not just the absence of war, but that it entails an inherent responsibility to address the structural problems of our society. Now I see conflict not as something negative, but as a tool for growth. This has helped me reframe my way of thinking and focus on alternative methods for conflict resolution.
Network of Afro-Latin American, Afro-Caribbean and Diaspora Women, Guatemala
As an Afro-descendant woman, I have been a victim of racism, discrimination and harassment and have had limited employment opportunities. In 2004, I was crowned Miss Guatemala; to date I am the only non-white woman to have won that title. I have a degree in Diplomacy and International Relations, I am an empowered woman and I am interested in empowering other young Afro-descendant women through the network that I am part of. I believe we need to work together with women leaders and organizations, national and international, that enable us to develop our capacities. This training has allowed me to detect certain strengths and weaknesses within the network and has reaffirmed the importance of dialogue and mediation techniques. The information received will be shared with my colleagues in the network in order to improve our relations with partner organizations. I am interested in continuing the research and receiving training so that I can learn more about conflict transformation processes.
La Leche League International
Working with women and for women is what I enjoy the most. I’ve been part of various organizations dedicated to supporting women’s health, education and economic development. Now, I am on the board of directors of an international organization where I provide a “southern” perspective on the challenges we face today. Throughout my work experience, I have learned how difficult it can be to reach an agreement. I would like to help others avoid building adversarial camps and embrace that our differences make us stronger. Conflicts are common and people need to feel understood and heard to overcome them. I am confident that the tools offered throughout the DPPA training will help us consolidate our partnerships, build trust and facilitate decision-making processes.
Title image: Scene from the municipal market in Tucuru, Guatemala. UN Photo/UN Women/Ryan Brown