SEPTEMBER 16, 2020

Current situation of indigenous Mayan women and Covid-19

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In the framework of the UN activities for the International Day of Indigenous Women, specialists analyzed the current situation of the role and future of Mayan women in Guatemala, as well as the impact of COVID-19 on their communities. The event was organized by the UNOPS office in Guatemala and was attended by UN Women.

In Guatemala, indigenous peoples make up 43.5% of the population, one of the highest percentages in Latin America. For this reason, and in order to deepen the knowledge about the current role of indigenous women, the Virtual Conversation was held: “Impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on indigenous communities and women: looking at their future” on September 11, 2020. The meeting is part of the celebration of the International Day of Indigenous Women.

The event was attended by Delfina Mux, consultant of several UN agencies, pedagogue, educator, with extensive experience in international cooperation, civil society, and state organizations. She has held senior positions in the Planning Secretariat and as public policy advisor to the President’s Office Secretariat for Women and is currently Coordinator of the Indigenous Peoples Program at OXFAM Guatemala.

Teresa Zapeta also participated, she has been Defender of the Office of the Ombudsman for Indigenous Women (2004-2008), has also worked for UN Women as the Regional Coordinator of the Indigenous Women Program for Central America and is currently Executive Director of the International Forum of Indigenous Women-FIMI.

According to Delfina MUX, “We must change the focus of indigenous women from being called a vulnerable population to being subjects of Social, Political and Economic Rights. This shift of paradigm will allow us to reorient relationships, programs, and public policies. The SDGs and the 2030 Agenda cannot be achieved without recognizing the diversity of indigenous peoples. It is therefore necessary to include the indigenous women's rights approach”.

During the discussion, the impact of COVID-19 on indigenous women's livelihoods was analyzed, as well as the unequal access to public health systems, food security and basic services.

In this respect, Teresa Zapeta complemented “Covid-19 showed the limited access to health of indigenous women. In the actions taken by government institutions there is a great lack of knowledge of ancestral health systems. In addition, due to the emergency there has been an increase in the workload that affected, to a greater extent, indigenous women and restrictions altered (informal) trade, which directly contributes to family support. On the other hand, we have a problem of education gaps, education is not reaching indigenous girls, in many communities we have no electricity, no internet”.

Indigenous women should be entitled to rights and be an active part of the construction of state policies and programs to reduce gender and ethnic inequalities. They, better than anyone else, know the needs of their communities, as well as the strategies to address these challenges.

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In relation to the previous point, the speakers mentioned that there have been efforts and advances for their political participation and to expand the presence of indigenous women in decision-making spaces. Though there is still a long road ahead. “We are applying rules of responsible governance in indigenous communities.

recovering knowledge; leading our own education and prevention processes on the impact of COVID-19. In food security, actions such as orchards and family farming have been taken. We are also promoting collaboration with governments for emergency response, as well as partnerships with different sectors,” Teresa Zapeta emphasized.

UN Women's Representative in Guatemala, Adriana Quiñonez, supported the objective of the discussion since it allows to bring these issues to discussion. She also added, “From the United Nations, we have been working for indigenous women as protagonists of development. We are launching a political platform with many activities in order to combine efforts and initiatives. For example, within the UNOPS - UN Women agreement we have the opportunity to lead public procurement for women; we rely on this partnership to put women at the center of the markets, the economy and social inclusion.”

September 5, 1983, was declared International Day of Indigenous Women, in honor of Bartolina Sisa, an Aymara heroine, who was murdered on September 5, 1782, for leading the uprising against injustice. For the United Nations system, gender equality is a high priority. Despite the fact that women and girls make up half of the world's population, gender inequalities persist in all sectors.

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