Mayan citizen participation promotes women’s rights


In Guatemala’s Western Highlands, Mayan women’s rights are being improved thanks to a project set up by Terre des Hommes France and the Tzuk Kim Pop Movement. A project supported by AFD, which is based on getting people more involved in the public sphere.

“One day, I will be the mayor of my village.” The ambition of Rosa Dominga Chaj Yac, a member of the Women’s Committee of the municipality of Cantel, in Guatemala’s Western Highlands region, is a sign that the role of women is changing in Mayan communities, in which Terre des Hommes France and the Tzuk Kim Pop Movement are taking action.
The two partner NGOs are fighting to advance women’s rights in communities which are marked by poverty, male chauvinism and discrimination against women. More generally, it is a pilot project for good governance and citizen participation which they conducted in four municipalities from June 2013 to May 2016.

  ©Terre des Hommes France

Developing citizen participation

The project used existing legislation in Guatemala to significantly develop citizen participation: today, communities in these municipalities, over 90% of which are Amerindian, participate in 11 municipal committees. They work alongside municipal councils with the aim of providing practical solutions to their needs in terms of education, health, economic development, the environment and women’s rights.
One of the project’s successes lies in the proportion of women in these participatory bodies: 36% of women among the members of the municipal bodies and 61% among civil society representatives!

Giving women a voice

This high level of women’s representation allows a number of concerns to be voiced with regard to health (Maternity House respecting Mayan traditions, training and action to defend the traditional know-how of midwives and healers, medicinal plant laboratory), education (school libraries, training for women to fight against violence) and the environment (sustainable forest management, conservation of water resources). The municipalities also support women’s activities, by breeding laying hens for example, in order to improve their incomes. The objective is to develop their economic independence so that they can exercise their rights and free themselves of the violence against them.

©Terre des Hommes France

Public policies to keep up the action

Beyond these projects, the aim of Tzuk Kim Pop and Terre des Hommes France is to promote the establishment of real public policies in order to keep up all these actions in the long term and maximize their impact. Two municipal public policies, developed with women, have already been adopted. They also include concrete actions, such as making and broadcasting promotional spots in the Quiché language to raise awareness of violence, education and reproductive health.

©Terre des Hommes France

Towards greater transparency

With “a clear citizen participation”, highlighted during the external evaluation of the project a year ago, this first phase is a success. Terre des Hommes France and the Tzuk Kim Pop Movement have consequently decided to continue to support these communities with a second phase. It started in August 2016 in three municipalities which have already been supported and in three new ones. Following on from the actions launched since 2013, this new phase will also comprise specific support for young people and women to help them have a voice and participate in decision-making bodies. Transparency will also be a focus, from the community level to the municipal level, along with the fight against corruption. AFD is continuing to support this project thanks to which a Mayan woman will, perhaps, one day become mayor of her village!

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