Supporting Culture, Supporting Women:
The Challenge of Universal Human Rights
May 7, 1999
Ignacio Martin-Baro Human Rights Essay
SECTION I: INTRODUCTION
Human rights are, by their very definition, standards that are universally applicable to all human beings. The norms of a particular culture, on the other hand, are specific standards which sometimes dictate or allow practices that may be either incomprehensible or unacceptable to observers outside of that culture. Thus, there is a tension when advocates of universal human rights criticize these practices, since this criticism may be seen as an attack upon the integrity and morality of the culture, and thus, a threat to the identity of people who live according to its norms. In this paper I will propose ways to avoid these difficulties in two struggles which might be expected to generate such tension: the struggle for universal human rights for women and the struggle for the empowerment of particular cultural identities. The media, the field of anthropology, and recent Immigration and Nationalization Services (INS) asylum cases have all confronted, and sometimes sensationalized, the conflicts that can arise when a culture imposes "backwards" or even "barbaric" customs and norms upon its women. In the midst of this attention to these "abhorrent" practices concerning women, we are also confronted with the arguments of cultural relativists who claim that these practices are normal and acceptable within a particular culture. According to this line of argument, any practice that is standard in a particular culture is a practice to which women of that culture are accustomed and which the majority of them condone, thus making it inscrutable to criticism from outsiders. Feminist anthropology, therefore, is confronted by a difficult dilemma because it would seem that supporting solidarity and empowerment within a culture that seems to "oppress" its women might actually contribute to the oppression of women within that culture. However, I will argue that the support of cultural groups and the movement to extend the protection of universal human rights to all women are not necessarily mutually exclusive. I will use the situation of indigenous women in Guatemala as a case study to explore the ways in which the affirmation of a groupís cultural identity can support, instead of challenge, the struggle to extend human rights protection to all women.
To make this argument, I will present a brief history of the human rights movement in Guatemala in order to illustrate the fact that indigenous women are more likely to fight for womenís rights when they see these rights as advancing the struggle for indigenous human rights. I will explore the tensions between what Westerners consider to be universal human rights and how indigenous women themselves perceive these rights. Indigenous women are more likely to have an agenda that prioritizes basic human rights like the access to food, shelter, education, and an effective legal and political system. Non-indigenous womenís organizations, however, tend to have an agenda that prioritizes issues like reproductive freedom, domestic violence, or the prosecution of rape as a war crime. I will argue that both of these agendas are necessary in order to advance human rights for indigenous women in Guatemala. I believe that it is possible to encourage indigenous women to effectively deal with all of these issues, and thus, to assert the full range of their human rights as women. However, this must be done by allowing them to address these problems in a way that will support and affirm, rather than challenge, their cultural identity as indigenous women.
SECTION II: Indigenous Women in Guatemala
Within the realm of Guatemala's human rights discourse, indigenous women occupy a unique space. Theorist Jack Donnelly explains that "it is individuals, not groups, that have rights to food, health care, work, social security, due process, freedom of the press, protection against discrimination, and the like" (1989:20). The problem, of course, is that individual human beings tend to conceive of themselves as members of groups. The situation of indigenous women is particularly complex since they can be grouped as "indigenous people" but also as "women" and therefore privy to the protection not only of indigenous rights but also of those human rights classified as "women's rights." As Donnelly points out "to the extent that individuals define themselves and live their lives as part of such collective groups, they will tend to exercise their individual human rights less as a separate individual and more as group members" (1989:150). These group identifications are problematized by the fact that indigenous women in Guatemala may see themselves simply as members of an indigenous community, and not as participants in a national or international women's movement. Indigenous society in Guatemala has been critiqued by outsiders as being dominated by a machismo from which indigenous women need to liberate themselves. For this reason, it might seem that support for groups and organizations which affirm the customs and legitimacy of indigenous culture could preclude the promotion of the rights of women within that culture. However, it will be the argument of this paper that this is not so. Just as indigenous women's groups have strengthened the human rights struggle for indigenous peoples in Guatemala, this struggle for indigenous human rights has strengthened the development of human rights for women within indigenous communities. Therefore, the argument of this paper is that indigenous cultural identity and the human rights of indigenous women can be addressed in such a way that they mutually reinforce, instead of challenge one another.
II. (A). Cultural Groups and Universal Human Rights
Throughout this paper, I refer to the process of "affirming the cultural identity" and "supporting and strengthening the culture" of a group. I would like to clarify exactly what these phrases mean within the context of this paper. In this study of womenís human rights, I focus on the cultural development of "groups" in the broad sense of the word, meaning communities of people of a certain culture. However, I also focus on how cultural identities are strengthened through the organization of "groups" in the narrow sense of the term ñ in other words, limited groups of people within a particular community who organize and meet together to deal with issues which are a problem for their community. In this section, I would like to define the characteristics of these "limited" groups. I would also like to explain why I believe that these groups contribute to the strengthening of cultural identity within a community.
In this paper, I focus on womenís groups and the role they play in building cultural solidarity. I will define such group as the meeting of people from the same community who come together to provide support for each other while at the same time affirming the cultural identity of the members of their group. Groups like this often seek to uphold cultural traditions by practicing traditional crafts or engaging in other traditional cultural activities (which may even be as simple as cooking traditional foods). Within these groups, women deal with problems they have in common by sharing strategies to deal with these problems in a way that they feel to be appropriate within the context of their culture. Finally, essential to my definition of these groups is the fact that they make their members proud of and comfortable with their cultural background. This is important because it allows women to feel that they everyone from this background is entitled to certain rights, and most importantly, that as women of this culture, they are capable of asserting these rights. Therefore, I argue that womenís groups can help to build "cultural solidarity and strength" because they encourage their members to deal with community problems and assert their rights in ways that they feel uphold the traditions and philosophies of their culture.
Now that I have outlined the characteristics of the womenís groups I will discuss in this paper, I would also like to clarify exactly what I mean by the "rights" in the above paragraph. I would like to make it clear that I am working from an admittedly Western perspective as I deal with the topic of universal human rights. Since I am aware that this is problematic in a study of other cultures, I have devoted a significant amount of thought in this paper to the problem of how one can claim that a Western conception of human rights could or should be universally applied. In the next subsection, I will explore the specific rights for which we might expect either agreement or divergence between a non-Western and a Western conception of human rights for women. However, before this study of the human rights of women in particular, I would briefly like to explore the general problem of universal human rights and to state my perspective on the issue.
By a "universalist conception of human rights," I refer to the idea that all human beings are entitled to the same rights regardless of "the particular" articulation by other cultures of what rights do or do not exist within that culture (Bhabha 1996:31-32). The challenge of universal human rights erupts when there are rights that Westerners believe to be universal, but that a specific culture fails to enforce or recognize. Jack Donnelly poses the question, "if in virtually all cases in which the right at issue is not enjoyed, due to systematic lack of enforcement, does one really have it as a right?" (1985:17). As one who takes a "universalist" perspective on human rights (i.e., as one who is a proponent of "universal" human rights), I answer yes to this question. Donnelly explains that this is "ëthe possession paradoxí" ëhavingí and ënot havingí a right at the same time" (1985:17). He argues that "in many important cases, to talk of having systematically unenforced rights is not only coherent, but necessary" (1985:17). Despite this necessity, "universalists" often come under fire for being "cultural imperialists," who believe that Western culture can dictate what other cultures should and should not do.
Although I take a "universalist" position in this paper, I believe that the potential imperialism of a Western-defined notion of human rights should be acknowledged. However, what I believe to be dangerous about this notion is not its assertion that people are entitled to certain rights even if they are systematically unenforced within a culture. Rather, I find this notion dangerous only when Westerners self-righteously condemn other cultures for their "barbarism." A good example of the problems in this Western attitude can be seen in the Western response to the practice of female genital mutilation. Westerners often condemn this practice as barbaric and abhorrent, yet the number of women they let into their countries as asylum-seekers fleeing this practice is extremely small; it is rare and difficult for a woman to be granted asylum for this reason (Bhabha 1996: 26-30). Jacqueline Bhabha explains that this kind of use of the universalist position on human rights creates, "the double standard referred to earlier, where Western states unselfcritically term certain gendered norms imposed on women ëbarbaricí or ëprimitive,í and yet fail to accord protection to individuals seeking to challenge and flee these norms" (1996: 26). In this way, universalism can function to condemn other cultures without any thought of actually helping eradicate the very practices that it denounces. In my paper, I seek to avoid this problem by being careful not to criticize the "barbarism" or "machismo" of Guatemalan indigenous culture. Instead, I focus on ways to encourage women to assert the full range of their human rights without making them feel that they are betraying their culture or condemning it as backwards. When used with this caution, I believe that a "universalist" perspective on human rights is a useful one for this paper, and for the human rights struggle in the world at large.
II. (B). Defining Womenís Rights
In order to discuss the connections between women's human rights and indigenous human rights in Guatemala, I will first provide a definition of what I conceptualize women's rights to be. There are many rights that indigenous women hold as women but that they also hold by virtue of the fact that they are indigenous people. It is not always possible to state whether an indigenous woman holds a certain right because she is a woman or because she is indigenous. In fact, a right may be held for both of these reasons simultaneously. Also, an indigenous woman may feel that she has a right to something (like health care or education) because she is indigenous, while a Western feminist may feel that she has a right to this simply because she is a woman. However, there are some rights which are more clearly rights that indigenous women have because they are indigenous, since these rights are shared by indigenous men also. Such rights include the right to know what happened to disappeared relatives or the right to live in freedom from government harassment. Mayan cultural activist Demetrio Cojti Cuxil states that rights of the Mayan people must include, among others, the right to territorial autonomy, political autonomy and participation in public planning, and the development and use of the Mayan languages in education and the mass media (1996: 30-38). These are rights which would be held by indigenous women, by virtue of the fact that they are indigenous people and regardless of their gender.
Conversely, there are rights which are clearly gender-specific and which an indigenous woman should hold by virtue of the fact that she is a woman, like the right to freedom from domestic violence or the right to reproductive freedom. When I refer to "womenís rights," I do include in my definition some rights which indigenous women might feel they are entitled to because they are indigenous rather than because of their gender, like the right to adequate health care and the right to political advancement. I include these rights in my definition of "womenís rights" because this paper is written from a Western perspective. However, throughout this section I try to recognize the fact that indigenous women may see themselves as holding some of these rights that I call "womenís rights" not primarily because they are women but because these are the rights of all indigenous people.
Womenís rights are also a challenging area within human rights discourse due to the fact that there are some rights which Westerners consider to be universal women's rights but that indigenous women themselves are not fighting for. In my introduction, I stated that my thesis would concern the project of getting women to assert "the full range of their human rights." In this section of my study, I would like to clarify exactly what that range will be for the purposes of this paper. The exact definition of what women's rights are varies considerably depending on whether indigenous women or women with a Western feminist perspective are constructing this definition. As the following study of indigenous womenís organizations in Guatemala indicates, these organizations tend to define women's rights as attention to those human rights which are held by both men and women, but which women in particular severely lack, such as food, clothing, education, health care, and political empowerment. This list encompasses the stated goals which women in these groups are working to secure. A Westerner, however, might add to that list that women should also have the right to freedom of movement and of reproduction. In contrast, these are rights which are more gender-specific and are not issues on which most indigenous women in Guatemala are working.
In order to determine which women's rights non-indigenous and indigenous women both would agree to be universal goals, it is helpful to list some basic women's rights and divide this list into three categories. In using the term "non-indigenous," I refer to Western women who identify themselves with Western feminism, as well as non-indigenous (i.e. "ladina") women within Guatemala who also identify themselves as "feminist." The first areas, then, on this list of proposed universal rights are health care, food and basic subsistence needs, the right to education, and access to a fair and working judicial and political system. Both indigenous womenís organizations and non-indigenous womenís organizations are actively working to secure these rights for all women. Therefore, I will call these rights "undisputed" women's rights. However, there are also rights which indigenous women are not actively working to secure but for which Western organizations are actively working. These rights include freedom from rape- particularly rape during war- and freedom from domestic violence. While indigenous women's groups are not actively campaigning against these issues, we will assume that these are rights which they would like to secure. The reasons they are not currently working to secure such rights will be discussed later. I will call these rights "assumed" womenís rights, since I assume that indigenous women are concerned about violations of these rights and would like them to be universally applied even if they are not currently on the agenda of indigenous womenís organizations.
Finally, there are some rights which non-indigenous feminists believe all women should have but of which indigenous women themselves do not necessarily seems to be acutely aware. These rights include reproductive freedom and freedom of movement. This is not to say that there are not some indigenous women who are concerned about restrictions on their movement within the community and about the pressure for them to have many children. However, most indigenous women are not outraged about infringements upon their freedom of reproduction and freedom of movement, although they might be receptive to learning about these rights and working towards them. For the purposes of this argument, I will call these rights "anticipated" womenís rights, because although their universality might someday be accepted, they are currently not issues about which many indigenous women are concerned. Although these distinctions between different types of rights are complicated, I will use these distinctions to clarify my discussion of the goals and philosophies of womenís groups in Guatemala.
II.(C).The Indigenous Struggle for Human Rights: History and Relation to Womenís Organizations
In the following two subsections of this paper I will compare the goals and philosophies of several indigenous and non-indigenous womenís organizations in Guatemala. However, before doing this, it is necessary to clarify my use of the phrase "the struggle for indigenous human rights." To scholars of the situation in Guatemala, the "indigenous struggle" calls to mind to the activities and agenda of the militant guerrilla groups active in the country during the extreme violence of the early to mid 1980s. As David Stoll points out, this struggle alienated many indigenous people. He describes the process by which Nobel Peace Prize recipient Rigoberta Menchu became the international spokeswoman of the guerilla struggle, despite the fact that most indigenous people from her village were no longer supporters of the struggle she described. As Stoll explains, "now that guerrilla miscalculations and army repression had destroyed the popular movement, now that most peasants had been alienated from the left, Rigoberta could become a symbolic substitute for them" (1999:197). Stoll explains that the political assassinations carried out by the EGP (the Guatemalan Guerrilla Army of the Poor) in indigenous villages provoked the army to start kidnapping peasants in these villages (1999:192). For this reason, many indigenous people in Guatemala did not support the activities of the EGP. Therefore, if we define "the indigenous struggle" as the militant activities of the guerrillas, then we must realize that this was not a "popular" movement, since it had lost the support of much of the indigenous population.
However, in my use of the phrase "the struggle for indigenous human rights," I would like to make it clear that I am not referring to the militant guerrilla struggle described above. Rather, I use this phrase to refer to the activities and agenda of the human rights organizations which emerged during the mid 1980s and still exist today in Guatemala. While these organizations were certainly targeted by the Guatemalan government, their activities generally did not provoke the level of village-wide government retaliation that political assassinations by the EGP had provoked. While individual members of these human rights groups and their families became government targets for harassment and "disappearances," it was not common for an entire village to be terrorized due to the activities of individuals in these groups. I would hypothesize that this could be attributed to the fact that the members of these organizations made their identities public, meeting with government officials and listing their family names in the newspapers (Simon 1985:14). Therefore, the government often knew exactly who to target in order to intimidate these groups; it could target individual members of the group instead of having to target an entire village in order to intimidate and punish the unnamed guerrillas circulating in the village. Consequently, although it was definitely dangerous to join these human rights groups, the popular opposition to them was not as great as the opposition to the activities of the EGP which Stoll describes. These groups represented a new alternative to the militant "indigenous struggle." Stoll explains that "instead of propagandizing directly for the URNG [Guatemalan National Revolutionary Union], which would have frightened away many of their constituents, the new organizations focused on the armyís human rights violations" (207).
Who exactly were these new organizations? A good example of this new type of group was the Runujel Junam Council of Ethnic Communities (CERJ), an organization whose main goal was to abolish the civil patrols in which the army required indigenous men to serve. However, interestingly enough, two of these new groups, the Mutual Support Group (GAM) and the National Coordinating Committee of Guatemalan Widows (CONAVIGUA), were composed almost entirely of women, many of them indigenous. In fact, CONAVIGUA was composed of and led almost exclusively by indigenous women (Hooks 1993:126). However, despite the fact that government retaliation against these new organizations posed a decreased threat to people not directly involved in them (compared with the threat posed to entire villages by the activities of the EGP), they were still not supported by all indigenous people. Stoll explains that members of CONAVIGUA "were also under the eye of neighbors who blamed their dead husbands for being guerrillas" (1999:207). Moreover, many people were still too afraid of potential government retaliation to join groups like this (Stoll 1999:249). Nonetheless, although they had far from universal membership and support, these organizations did have, and continue to have a substantial amount of support and membership from indigenous women. By 1986, there were over 1,000 members in GAM (Hooks 1993: 90). There were over 5,000 members of CONAVIGUA by the early 1990s (Hooks 1993:128), and in recent years that number has grown to 11,000 (Tooley 1997:85).
As Stoll points out, not all indigenous people are willing to identify with or directly involve themselves in an "indigenous struggle" no matter what its tactics and agenda. The new non-militant human rights organizations have been more successful in garnering widespread support, but no organization, militant or not, can hope to include the entire population in its struggle. Therefore, my goal in analyzing the philosophies and goals of indigenous womenís groups is not to argue that we should improve these groups in order to try to involve all indigenous women in their struggle. Nor do I argue that all indigenous women supported or were ever involved with these groups. Rather, my goal is to understand how these groups were, and still are, successful in attracting any indigenous women at all. What are the philosophies and agendas of these groups that made a substantial amount of indigenous women feel comfortable enough to join them, even when joining sometimes brought on government harassment and death threats? These groups do not openly declare themselves to be feminist, and as I will explain, their agendas do not include all of the rights that Westerners might believe it is necessary to promote. However, I will argue that these groups have dramatically helped to promote womenís rights in indigenous communities. These groups do prioritize "womenís issues," although they do not fight for womenís rights in the same way that Westerners might expect. Given their focus on helping women in particular to meet basic subsistence needs, it is somewhat surprising that feminism is still mostly undeveloped in indigenous communities in Guatemala. In a study of Central American womenís movements, Aguilar, et. al, point out that out of all the womenís organization in both indigenous and non-indigenous communities in Guatemala today, there are only two groups which openly declare themselves to be "feminist" (1997:140). Since the human rights struggle has given womenís groups an impetus to form in Guatemala, and since these groups have continued to expand and develop throughout the country, why do most indigenous Guatemalan women still not identify with Western feminism? How are their conceptions of "human rights for women" different from ours?
I believe that it is essential to explore these questions in order to understand how to effectively promote a wider range of womenís rights in indigenous communities. I will argue that it is in fact possible to design programs and resources that will encourage Guatemalan women to assert the full range of their human rights as women. However, in order to do this, we must recognize that they are most comfortable asserting these rights when they feel they are working within the context of the struggle for indigenous human rights. This human rights struggle is the source out of which current organization of womenís groups has arisen (Randall 1995: 59). In the following sections, I will explain how and why we must work within this context in order to further advance womenís rights in indigenous communities.
II. (D). Indigenous Womenís Organizations: Philosophies, Goals, and Strategies
A detailed understanding of the goals and philosophies of indigenous women's organizations is critical to the argument of this paper. Therefore, in order to fully understand the issues surrounding women's rights I will first examine four major organizations for indigenous Guatemalan women: CONAVIGUA, GAM, Nan, and Mama Maquin. GAM is perhaps the most well-known internationally of these groups. With a membership that is 90 percent female and 80 percent indigenous, GAM is committed to investigating the fate of relatives who have been disappeared by the Guatemalan government (Tooley 1997:80). It should be noted that GAM does not have an explicitly "feminist" agenda; its goal is not the political or social advancement of the women involved in the organization. Nevertheless, the fact that it is composed mostly of indigenous women has shaped it into an organization which has indirectly advanced the rights of indigenous women in Guatemala, a process which will be discussed in greater detail later. In contrast, CONAVIGUA is an organization which is explicitly devoted to improving the dignity and unity of women in indigenous society (Hooks 1993:126). The most immediate demands of this organization are those of food, medical care, housing and clothing, followed by demands for government assistance in meeting education costs and legislation to protect widows and poor women (Hooks 1993:126-127). CONAVIGUA is almost 100 percent indigenous and its members are also dedicated to recovering and burying the remains of their dead relatives. It is important to note that although CONAVIGUA makes explicit demands for the advancement of women, it is also an organization devoted to indigenous rights. This organization defines itself as struggling against ethnic and gender discrimination and the violation of human rights (Garcia 1989:218). While it advocates for better resources for the allocation of greater resources for women, CONAVIGUA sees itself as helping women by encouraging their engagement in a struggle for indigenous rights.
Nan, an organization for indigenous Guatemalan women living in Mexico, expresses this inclusionary attitude. This organization arose out of a 1985 workshop organized by indigenous women in order to earn money through the traditional craft of weaving. It evolved into a space within which these women started to carry out political work for both the indigenous struggle and for women's rights, advocating on behalf of indigenous women at Latin American feminist conferences. As a founding member of the weaving collective explains, "the Indian woman suffers from a triple exploitation by virtue of being a woman, being Indian and being poor. We have to find a way of combating these three problems simultaneously" (Hooks 1993:72). A similar philosophy is espoused by members of the indigenous women's organization Mama Maquin. Named after an elderly activist killed in the Panzos massacre, this group seeks to educate and empower Guatemalan women in refugee camps (Tooley 1997:70). Their mission is to educate each other about their rights as women with the objective of achieving better education and health care. However, like members of Nan, the members of this group also organize in order to preserve their culture and history (Tooley 1997:71). These indigenous women's organizations promote women's rights by making demands for those human rights which women in particular severely lack, such as food, clothing, education, and political empowerment.
II. (E). Non-indigenous Womenís Organizations: Philosophies, Goals, and Strategies
In providing an overview of indigenous women's organizations I hope to highlight the ways in which the goals, nature, and philosophies of these organizations differ significantly from organizations for indigenous women whose leadership and composition is entirely non-indigenous. One of these organizations is the National Women's Office (ONAM), run by the Guatemalan government. With a ladina (i.e. non-indigenous) leadership, this office could do more to foster involvement by indigenous women in their projects. As one representative of Nan explains, the women connected with the ONAM are not women who have suffered from poverty and discrimination (Hooks 1993:73). Moreover, ONAM's accusation of one indigenous womenís group, which they did not openly name, as being a clandestine organization was regarded as a serious affront to many indigenous women (Hooks 1993:73).
Just as ONAM's philosophy can alienate indigenous women, feminist critiques of indigenous culture can also be highly alienating. Luz Mendez de la Vega, a Guatemalan feminist writer, offered a negative portrayal of an Indian sacred book focusing on its representation of the woman as a dog walking behind the man. This criticism of the machismo in Indian culture offended one Indian women who explains that, "the indigenous couple is one of the most integrated, because the Indian woman is very conscious of her role vis-a-vis the man, and the man fulfills his obligation... When Luz Mendez talks about womenís culture, she does so within the feminist/macho framework and this is not relevant to the Indian woman" (Hooks 1993:57). This example illustrates the reasons why indigenous women do not see themselves as needing to escape the patriarchal confines of their culture.
However, this is not to say that indigenous women are incapable of recognizing machismo; indeed, the Guatemalan human rights activist Rigoberta Menchu openly critiques this problem of machismo in her life story as told to Elisabeth Burgos-Debray in, I, Rigoberta Menchu. However, Menchu believes that this machismo is a societal problem which cannot be addressed by women fighting separately but rather by men and women talking together (Burgos-Debray 1984:216). Menchu explains that indigenous women in Guatemala do not want to alienate their struggle from the struggle of indigenous men since "women work and are exploited as well. Women work picking coffee and cotton... when we discuss womenís problems, we need the men to be present, so that they can contribute by giving their opinions of what to do about the problem... We must fight as equals. If a companero is asked a question about machismo, he must be able to give a wide balanced view of women, and a woman must be able to do the same for him, because the two have been studying the problem together" (1984:221-222).
Therefore, when Luz Mendez presents the problem as if it were a choice between joining the feminist struggle and being oppressed by machismo, she uses a framework which indigenous women cannot accept since they see another alternative to the problem- working with men to solve the problem while both genders fight for indigenous rights. A 1989 study of Central American women concluded that most did not feel that inequalities due to gender required special attention, but rather that such inequalities would be mitigated as a result of solutions to other problems such as economic development, financial redistribution, political or ideological revolutions, or support for democracy (Garcia 1989:241). It is this attitude which helps us to understand why a good portion of indigenous women have become involved in human rights activism for the indigenous community while at the same time declining to identify themselves with a national or international womenís movement. They see a "womenís movement" as espousing the exclusionary and misguided ideals of Western feminism. In contrast, groups for human rights activism allow women to express their dedication to their culture and to working within and for the community in which they feel comfortable.
Indigenous women do recognize the problems of gender inequality, but in dealing with it, they focus on working together with men in their community and on solving other community problems simultaneously. Non-indigenous womenís organizations run the risk of alienating indigenous women if they do not recognize and respect their views on this problem. It is also interesting to consider how ONAM might alienate indigenous women in other more subtle ways. The first coordinator of ONAM expressed the view that one of the primary obstacles facing indigenous women is their lack of access to positions of leadership and direction in political parties. She explains that, "I believe that in many cases this is due to self-limitation... to get into leadership positions, it is crucial that women participate... Women stand more chance of achieving leadership positions, better working conditions and better treatment at all levels, if they participate in organizations of a more social nature" (Hooks 1993:115). It is clear that ONAM would consider groups like CONAVIGUA less than ideal. CONAVIGUA's immediate concern is not to encourage women to participate in groups of a "more social nature" by infusing them into mainstream political or social organizations. Rather, CONAVIGUAís goal is to encourage them to organize together as indigenous women ñ although women do sometimes enter the sphere of mainstream politics as a result of their involvement with these groups. While ONAM believes that encouraging women to participate in political organizations should be the main objective of the indigenous women's struggle, CONAVIGUA, Nan, and Mama Maquin are organizations which are primarily concerned with meeting women's basic subsistence, health, and education needs. The difference between ONAM and these other groups, then, is that ONAM supports womenís participation in politics for the sake of involving women in mainstream Guatemalan organizations and empowering indigenous women by pulling them into the public sphere. While members of these other indigenous groups might be drawn into this political participation, the idea of entering politics simply to "empower" themselves is an idea that would not necessarily be very convincing or appealing to them. Rather, they want to advocate for basic health and education needs from within their position as members of an indigenous womenís group, and not necessarily as part of a mainstream Guatemalan political party.
While ONAM is an office of the Guatemalan government, there are also international organizations for the advancement of indigenous women. MADRE is one such program which seeks to develop partnerships with community-based organizations all over the world. This organization focuses on human rights advocacy, ending rape as a policy of war, and is particularly interested in waging campaigns to encourage women to give testimony for human rights abuses they have suffered (MADRE homepage). In highlighting the difference between organizations like CONAVIGUA which focus on basic food, health, and education needs and organizations like MADRE or ONAM, which focus on putting women in political offices or on testimonial campaigns to stop rape, the point is not to valorize one at the expense of the other. Non-indigenous womenís organizations bring essential strategies for women's rights, advancement, and empowerment, and both kinds of organizations are necessary. It is not enough to assume that womenís rights have been won simply because of the successes of human rights activism by indigenous people. Instead, women's rights must be given special attention and addressed with specific strategies geared towards the promotion of these rights and not just the promotion of indigenous rights in general. In this respect, the help of Western organizations which are specifically concerned with what I have defined as "assumed" and "anticipated" women's rights is essential in promoting the full range of human rights for indigenous women.
II. (F). The Complications of Categorizing and Prioritizing Rights
This comparison of indigenous and non-indigenous womenís groups allows us to understand the complexities of advocating for universal human rights for women. The study of these organizations reveals that the three categories of womenís rights outlined in the subsection on defining womenís rights are not neatly divisive. For example, it is clear that members of GAM and CONAVIGUA want the judicial system to answer for their disappeared relatives, but it is not clear that groups like Nan or Mama Maquin are composed of members who want to be given more resources and opportunities to run for political office themselves. Therefore, a right like access to and participation in a fair and working judicial and political system might waver between being an "undisputed" right, an "assumed" right, and an "anticipated" right. The right to have women represented in government might be a right which Westerners consider a positive right that the state should actively work to secure, while many indigenous women might prefer to organize separately in indigenous womenís groups that focus on strengthening indigenous culture in a less politicized setting.
Moreover, it is important to recognize that just because indigenous women are not actively demanding all of the "assumed" and "anticipated" rights that Westerners might want or expect them to, this does not mean that they are unconcerned about womenís rights. Indeed, groups like CONAVIGUA openly state that they are working for the empowerment of indigenous women in Guatemalan society (Tooley 1997:85). However, the way in which such groups seek to achieve this goal might be surprising to Westerners. Instead of radically asserting their right to freedom of movement or other "assumed" or "anticipated" womenís rights, they focus on more basic, "undisputed" womenís rights. The point I would like to make concerning this discrepancy is that advocating for basic subsistence rights for women, in a society were poverty is rampant, is a radical assertion of womenís rights. The United Nations Human Development Report for 1990, when groups like GAM and CONAVIGUA had already been in existence for several years, reflects the situation of extreme poverty out of which these groups were operating. At this time, 74 percent of the population in rural areas was below the poverty line, and 66 percent of the population lacked access to health services (Human Development Report 1990: 158). Even in recent years, the 1998 Report reveals that 58 percent of the population still lives below the national poverty line, and 43 percent are still without access to health services (Human Development Report 1998: 146). In such a society, where women are denied the most basic rights to adequate shelter, education, and health care, demanding these basic rights for women can be seen as a very radical and progressive stance on the promotion of womenís rights as human beings. As testimony from an indigenous health care worker explains, "promoting health in rural areas frequently means getting involved in the communityís demands for better living conditions. In Guatemala, this type of activity is often branded as subversiveÖ" (Hooks 1993:20).
Thus, the point of distinguishing between the three categories of womenís rights that I have proposed is not to rank the importance of one category over another. Rather, there are two main points to be made by distinguishing between these categories. The first point is that the area of "assumed" womenís rights is an area into which Western organizations can bring ideologies and strategies that are absolutely necessary in helping indigenous women achieve rights that they want but that they cannot work to secure or are not working to secure right now by themselves. The second point is that the area of "anticipated" human rights is both critical and very delicate. While Western organizations can make important contributions in this area, they also run a very high risk of alienating indigenous women by approaching the situation in a way that does not frame the situation in terms that are acceptable to indigenous women. The importance of these points will be illustrated in the following discussion of specific resources to encourage indigenous women to assert their human rights.
II. (G). Encouraging Indigenous Women to Assert a Greater Range of Womenís Rights
The argument of this section is that in order to make effective contributions to an indigenous women's movement in Guatemala, Western organizations must be aware of the distinctions between different kinds of rights in order to anticipate how indigenous women will react to their efforts to promote these rights. The struggle for indigenous human rights has encouraged indigenous women to form organizations which advocate indigenous human rights, but also advocate for many basic "undisputed" human rights for women. However, "assumed" and "anticipated" womenís rights like domestic violence, reproductive freedom, and freedom of movement are not issues which are currently on the agendas of these womenís groups. In the following sections, I would like to suggest ways that these "assumed" and "anticipated" rights could also be promoted within indigenous communities. I argue that in order to do this, non-indigenous organizations must recognize the fact that indigenous women see themselves as fighting for these rights within the context of the struggle for indigenous human rights. This context is one which leads them to place a great importance upon working with the men of their community in order to solve problems. This desire to strengthen the indigenous community may also make indigenous women cautious of subverting the traditional norms of their culture in the name of feminist empowerment. With this in mind, I will examine several specific women's rights issues in order to determine how a broader range of women's rights in Guatemala could be best promoted in each instance.
The first issue I will examine is that of domestic violence in indigenous communities. Freedom from domestic violence is an "assumed" right which I believe indigenous women would want to enforce. However, it is necessary to realize that this does not mean that they will be receptive to dealing with domestic violence if they do not have resources which address the issue in a way that they consider to be appropriate. For example, the standard Western response to the problem of domestic violence has been the establishment of transitional shelters where women can stay when they are in the process of leaving abusive partners. The shelter system, however, is based on the premise that leaving oneís partner is the best way to deal with an abusive situation. This is a premise which is not usually questioned by policy-makers who design and fund resources to deal with domestic violence within the U.S. However, it is wise to consider the possibility that this premise might be alienating to many indigenous women, since they place great importance upon working with the men of their community in order to solve problems. It would be helpful to establish indigenous womenís centers where women facing very severe cases of domestic violence could escape to if they chose. However, it is not likely that establishing a standard Western shelter system in indigenous communities would be of use to the many indigenous women who are facing moderate levels of domestic abuse for which they are not convinced it is worthwhile to leave their husbands. These women would not be very likely to use the resources provided by a shelter system, even if such a system were put into place in indigenous communities. Given the limited appeal that a shelter system would probably have in indigenous Guatemalan society, a more far-reaching approach to the problem of domestic violence could be embodied in a public education campaign. A media campaign targeted at the indigenous community, for example, would be one way to increase community awareness of domestic violence. A perspective that prioritizes the philosophies of indigenous women indicates that a good way to frame this campaign would be to present domestic violence as an issue that the whole community must work together to solve and which, through its resolution, could strengthen the indigenous community.
The issue of reproductive rights is arguably a more complicated issue that that of domestic violence since reproductive rights are an "anticipated" rather than an "assumed" right. Westerners often believe that the large size of indigenous families indicates that women's reproductive rights are not being fully respected and that women themselves are not aware of the problem. Framing family planning as beneficial because it will empower women might be a strategy that would make sense to Westerners, but it is not true that empowerment will necessarily be the direct result of family planning for indigenous women in Guatemala. Reducing the number of children they must care for is only one aspect of the situation that needs to change for indigenous women to gain more social and political power. This strategy alone will not necessarily have the direct affect of securing more gains for indigenous women in areas about which they are concerned, such as improved education. Therefore, presenting family planning as a strategy for women's empowerment might not be a tactic which would make sense or be convincing to most indigenous women in Guatemala.
This is not to say that some indigenous women do not believe that having less children will give them more freedom. However, a study conducted by the Association for the Welfare of the Family (APROFAM), concluded that the number one reason that discourages rural Guatemalan women from using contraception is the social disapproval they face because of their use of family planning (Bertrand, et al. 1978:31). In order to encourage women to use family planning, then, the reasons given should be very conventional ones which they can defend to families and neighbors and which they themselves view as necessary for their well-being and not for seemingly radical reasons like their own empowerment. Therefore, an effective campaign might frame family planning as something that is necessary for the health of the woman, focusing on the real health benefit of spacing births.
The World Health Organization (WHO) reports that women who die during childbirth in Guatemala are usually extremely poor, illiterate, often indigenous women who live in rural areas (Guatemala Human Rights Commission/USA 1998:5). In fact, the WHO estimates that the mortality rate of new mothers in Guatemala could be cut by more than 50 percent if mothers had access to quality heath services (Guatemala Human Rights Commission/USA 1998:5). This data suggests that implementing a program to educate indigenous women about prenatal care and the benefits of spacing births would probably be very successful in decreasing the mortality rate of new mothers. The success of such a program could, with time, encourage indigenous communities to see family planning as a legitimate way to promote health care for women, instead of as a subversive activity. Also, while indigenous women fear disapproval from husbands and community members for using family planning, surveys indicate that indigenous men are not actually more likely than women to disapprove of family planning (Bertrand, et al. 1978:76). This suggests that a good campaign for family planning would frame the issue as something men and women should talk about together. This would allow indigenous women to feel they were not violating cultural traditions or betraying their husbands by using contraception.
Finally, increased literacy is one of the factors highly correlated with the increased use of family planning (Bertrand, et al. 1978:71). As noted in the previous subsection on indigenous womenís groups, education to promote literacy is also one of the "undisputed" women's rights for which indigenous womenís organizations are already advocating. In 1990, the adult literacy rate in Guatemala was only 55 percent (Human Development Report 1990: 132). By 1998, it had increased to 65 percent ñ a modest gain, but still an improvement (Human Development Report 1998: 146). It is important to note that greater use of family planning in Guatemala will not naturally arise as a result of the increases in literacy that indigenous womenís groups have been advocating. However, as noted above, these gains in literacy and adult education are correlated with a greater willingness to use family planning. Therefore, such gains may be of great help to non-indigenous organizations who seek to implement successful family planning programs in Guatemala, since a more educated population will be more receptive to learning about these programs. This supports the argument that "assumed" and "anticipated" women's rights (like family planning) can be advanced through supporting the activities and demands to improve "undisputed" rights (like increased education to promote literacy) for which indigenous womenís organizations are already working.
Freedom of Movement
We can also extend this argument to deal with the issue of freedom of movement as a women's right. In order for this right to be fully secured, indigenous women first need to be concerned about it. As the outrage generated by feminist critiques like Luz Mendez de la Vega's indicates, this cannot be done by suggesting to indigenous women that their culture is oppressive in this respect. Rather, women must first see the need for them to increase their movement outside of the home and their mobility within society. Groups like GAM, whose leader and founder is now a congressional representative, can have the effect of pushing women into the public sphere of politics. Indigenous women in Guatemala have been most likely to become politically active in campaigning for women's rights as a result of becoming active in organizations which they initially join for the purposes of advocating for the rights of indigenous people. By joining such organizations and collectively organizing with other women, indigenous women often become socially mobile and politically visible advocates for women's rights, although might not necessarily have been their original or only intent in joining the organization. This scenario is, then, another example of how supporting indigenous human rights groups that work for "undisputed" women's rights can also indirectly support "anticipated" womenís rights, such as the right to organize outside of the home and the right to political participation.
As a study of Central American womenís organizations explains, groups like GAM and CONAVIGUA "allowed feminism to be taken out of ëhiding,í to begin to talk openlyÖ" (Alguilar, et. al, 114). These groups did not declare themselves to be feminist and did not work for all the "anticipated" and "assumed" womenís rights that Westerners consider to be radical and necessary. However, they were the beginning of a human rights movement that has gone on to demand basic subsistence rights, health care, and education for indigenous women, as well as demanding the advancement of indigenous women within society. In many cases, indigenous women have been drawn into the public sphere of Guatemalan politics through their participation in these groups. In all cases, womenís awareness of their rights as indigenous people and as women has been heightened through their participation in these groups. Therefore, the success of such groups provides clues about what strategies and resources to use when trying to extend an even greater range of human rights to these women.
SECTION III: CONCLUSION
Indigenous culture is not a static, unalterable force, based solely upon principles of oppressive machismo. Rather, like any culture, it is in a constant state of subtle negotiation and change- in this case, change which encompasses the potential for it to be infused with a concern for women's rights. One cannot argue that the assertion of all types of womenís rights will be a natural result of the activities of indigenous womenís human rights groups in Guatemala, without any help from Western organizations. The help of Western organizations which take a "universalist" perspective on womenís human rights is necessary in order to encourage indigenous women to assert a greater range of their rights. However, this must be done by designing resources and programs which indigenous women will feel comfortable using. Such projects must take into account the fact that indigenous women feel most comfortable asserting their rights as women when they feel that they are also affirming their identity as indigenous people. This study of indigenous womenís groups has shown how the participation of women in the indigenous movement has already advanced some types of women's rights. I have also given specific examples of how Western organizations can use the philosophies that encouraged women to participate in these groups in order to encourage indigenous women to assert a broader range of their universal human rights. Ultimately, I have made the argument that the existence of an indigenous population with a traditionally Western "feminist consciousness" is not a prerequisite for the advancement of indigenous women's rights in Guatemala. Instead, it is essential to recognize that indigenous women feel comfortable advancing womenís rights within the struggle for indigenous human rights. By designing programs that prioritize their identities as indigenous people, Western organizations can support the rights that they are already fighting for and also help them to assert a fuller range of their human rights as women.
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