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Guatemalan community feminists seek end to violence against the land and women

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The TZK'AT Network of Ancestral Healers of Community Feminism from Ixmulew in Guatemala was formed in October 2015 to defend Indigenous women's rights and the land.

Many of its members are healers, midwives, and herbalists.

An article in La Agroecología notes (in Spanish) that TZK'AT analyzes from a feminist and historical perspective how territorial dispossession has taken place.

The La Agroecología article explains, "They say that the original ancestral patriarchy consisted in the appropriation of the bodies of women as trophies of war… The original ancestral patriarchy was mixed in the invasion with the patriarchy of the western world."

It provides the example that, "The Spaniards who invaded violently brought a whole structure to justify that men could take the lives of women, as well as 'conquered' the lands of indigenous peoples."

The article also notes, "There are multiple dimensions of violence brought by the patriarchal connection, community feminists in Guatemala call it territorial femicide, which is the systematic persecution and murder of human rights defenders, women's rights and territories, as was the murder of Berta Cáceres on March 3, 2016 in Honduras."

A recent article posted by the World Rainforest Movement says, "Guatemalan community feminists have proposed the category body-land territory."

That category highlights "that the struggle for the defense of the land against extractivism must be simultaneous and inseparable from the struggle for women in such territories to live a life free from violence and the exploitation of their bodies."

That article adds, "Extractivism is based on and exacerbates the patriarchal culture, which has a particular affect on women's way of life."

It further notes, "In the contexts of mining and oil exploitation and hydroelectric installations, for example, a 'masculinization' of territories takes place in which community spaces and daily life are restructured around the desires and values of a hegemonic masculinity."

Lorena Cabnal is a Qeqchi Xinca, communal feminist, healer, and a member of TZK'AT.

She has written (in Spanish) that the network "accompanies processes of emotional and spiritual recovery by Indigenous women defenders of bodies and land."

TZK'AT members "feel, act, and come together to collectively defend their bodies and the Earth." And given the task of women defenders can be exhausting, TZK'AT looks to "ancestral knowledge through processes of emotional and spiritual recovery."

An article posted to Casi Literal has explained (in Spanish), "Defending natural resources, defending an Indigenous Mayan entity, defending collective rights and defending women's rights in the face of a false development has cost the lives of many people whose names are not reported by the media."

That article adds the members of the Network are "women who fight and face every day the effects of 'patriarchal-corporative and state violence in their neoliberal manifestation', who believe in the reciprocity of healing, and who embody the motto, 'Alive we love each other, we love ourselves freely, not one less.'"

Peace Brigades International has stated, "These women defenders have a history of being politically persecuted, suffering stigmatization, death threats, territorial political displacement and criminalization as a result of their work in defence of their rights."

PBI has provided protective accompaniment to TZK'AT since February 2018.

To read In her own words: Lorena Cabnal, please click here.

Image: Mountain Partnership/Flickr

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