Rights of Women and Girls

Faculty:  Mary Catherine Driese, PhD & Andrea Tock, MSc


Project Objectives
  • To examine the unique barriers that rural Guatemalan women and girls face when seeking justice
  • To explore the gender, sociocultural, and economic dynamics of rural Guatemalan communities
  • To learn first-hand about community-based methodologies to promote social justice and the unique challenges that come with community-based work
  • To study the impacts of international development paradigms on the Guatemalan justice system at different levels
Project Activities

Guatemala faces some of the highest levels of violence against women and girls (VAWG) and impunity in the world. The high incidence of violence against indigenous women and girls today is linked to the legacy of violence from the Guatemalan armed conflict. Widespread impunity and deeply-rooted machismo have further compounded the vulnerability of indigenous women in rural communities. Gender inequality is pervasive in Guatemala with only 2% of the municipalities run by women; nearly 115,000 girls under age 19 giving birth every year, including over 5,000 girls ages 10-14; and the fourth-lowest ranking of gender parity in politics of all 35 countries in Latin America and the Caribbean.[1],[2] Throughout the country, 27.9% of women suffer from intimate partner violence and many cases are not reported.[3] Moreover, in 98% of cases, the perpetrators remain unpunished.[4] VAWG is one of the most oppressive forms of gender inequality and stands as a fundamental barrier to equal participation of women and men in social, economic, and political spheres.

Rural, indigenous women are disproportionately impacted by violence due to geographic isolation, social norms, weak institutions, and limited access to resources. The Public Office for the Defense of Indigenous Women’s Rights in Guatemala has estimated that over one third of indigenous women who live with a man experience domestic violence, with young women facing an even higher rate.[5] Social services and government institutions are concentrated in Guatemala’s cities and rarely reach rural areas, where 46% of the population lives. Many indigenous women, especially survivors of violence, do not have the freedom to leave their homes and their children to seek services and even fewer can afford transportation to urban areas. Those women who leave their communities to seek assistance often face discrimination due to their ethnicity, in addition to the challenge of navigating a system that does not offer bilingual services.

While many of these factors can and have been measured separately, existing gender equality indices are derived from national-level data and do not take into account the specific barriers that indigenous Guatemalan women face. To measure the potential for, and impact of, gender-based violence prevention programming in the region, including the long-term effects of interventions made by governmental and civil society organizations, the NAPA-OT field school will co-create a community-based Gender Equality Index with a local community-based women’s rights organization. This index will facilitate the measurement of gender disparity across different rural communities and regions of Guatemala, will be culturally pertinent, and take into consideration different dimensions such as: agency, safety, and reproductive health, among others.

Students in the NAPA-OT Field School will critically evaluate existing gender index tools and identify areas of improvement, considering themes of autonomy, power, colonization, and indigenous Guatemalan culture. Students will conduct observations and interviews with local stakeholders in rural communities of the Western Highlands to determine the most meaningful factors to include in the creation of a Gender Equality Index and how to measure them. The resulting community-based Gender Equality Index will constitute a novel, essential tool for evaluating gender equality in Guatemala’s rural, indigenous communities. To develop social justice and occupational justice-informed tools to improve decision-making and evaluation of gender equality in indigenous communities.

Key competencies gained will include:  

  • Each student will contribute to data entry through individual interviews and observations.
  • Data coding and analysis will be done cooperatively as a group.
  • Students will work together to create a report of preliminary project findings to be given to participating NGOs and other stakeholders in addition to a final PowerPoint presentation.
  • Faculty and students will discuss occupational perspectives and analyses of the data.

NOTE: Students’ willingness to contribute to the report in the 2-4 weeks following the field school end date is requested, in order to complete the writing, editing, and/or posting of the report.