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Indigenous women''s organizations as local norm advocates in post-conflict Guatemala

Tine Destrooper
Ghent University
Tine Destrooper
Ghent University
Tine Destrooper
Ghent University
Open Panel

Abstract

In this paper I explore the dynamic interaction between local and (inter)national women''s organizations in post-war Guatemala with relation to women''s rights. The Guatemalan women''s movement was decisively shaped by the conflict period in several ways. For one, in the immediate post-conflict period, Guatemala saw a massive inflow of foreing capital and organizations, which led to a high degree of NGO''ization. I argue that this has furthered norm diffusion and awareness of women''s rights, but that it has at the same time come to dominate the organizational landscape to such an extent as to render the work of local norm advocates difficult. Yet, these local – mostly indigenous – organizations systematically keep referring to the attrocities committed against indigenous women during war to create a legitimization for themselves and to craft a niche in which they can experiment with standard interpretations of women''s rights. Throughout these organizations stressed the importance of experience and sentiment as a precondition for the understanding and implementation of women''s rights. Their influence has been most tangible in the period immediately following conflict – when the memory of conflict was strongest – and in the most recent period – when Guatemala is no longer a prioririty for transnational actors. This is amongst others visible in the extent to which organizations at the national level complement their rights-based approach with concepts borrowed from these local organizations. The Guatemalan post-conflict society thus challenges the commonsense idea that the massive presence of transnational rights advocates in post-conflict societies has an unequivocal positive influence on the diffusion of women''s rights. In this case, the transnational advocates actually impeded a large section of the organizations from complementing their rights-based approach with a more culturally specific approach.