Women's Empowerment in GuatemalaGuatemala spent close to three centuries under Spanish rule before gaining independence in 1821, according to the CIA. The latter half of the 20th century saw the small nation experience various military and civilian governments and a guerrilla war that lasted for 36 years and killed more than 200,000 people. The government signed a peace treaty in 1996 but Guatemala still has problems to solve.

CNN reported in 2012 that gender-based violence is highly prevalent in Guatemala and the country ranked third in femicide worldwide. There are two women killed each day in the small country making women’s empowerment in Guatemala an important issue.

During Guatemala’s civil war there was a great deal of violence committed against women. This left a legacy of violence that still plagues the country today. The military and paramilitary personnel that committed these crimes with impunity were integrated back into society. Many of these men remain in positions of power and have not changed their thoughts about women, because of this women’s empowerment in Guatemala is an issue that must be discussed.

Just over 20 years after the end of the civil war violent crime is higher than it was during the conflict. Although the homicide rate is high, the UN estimates that only two percent of cases go to court. Women are especially prone to violence because of gender bias. Many women are brutally killed because of their gender. The methods used include rape, torture and mutilation which were also common during the civil war. This culture of gender-based violence makes women’s empowerment in Guatemala difficult to accomplish.

Drug cartels from Mexico and other criminal groups help contribute to the excessive violence that plagues Guatemala which leaves fewer recourses for authorities to investigate femicides. Many cases go unreported because women fear retaliation which further hampers women’s empowerment in Guatemala.

The Central American nation is deeply rooted in machismo culture which is one of the greatest obstacles for women’s empowerment in Guatemala. Around 80 percent of men believe that women need permission to leave their home and 70 percent of women believe the same. Ideas like this make life difficult for women in Guatemala.

Despite the problems women face in Guatemala, there are signs of progress. According to PCI Global, the Asociación para el Desarollo Sostenible de la Juventud (ADESJU) was created by a group of young Guatemalans in 2004. In 2014, ADESJU began to apply the Women Empowered Initiative (WE) with the help of PCI. This has helped around 2000 women become economically and politically empowered. ADESJU has organized 94 WE groups with 1839 participants. WE wants to encourage women to become economically independent and active members of their communities. Women’s empowerment in Guatemala faces many obstacles but organizations like these are doing what they can to advance it.

– Fernando Vazquez

Photo: Flickr