The National Union of Guatemalan Women was the first women's rights organization to form in this Central American nation.
Founded in 1980 during the military dictatorship, members of the group witnessed an armed conflict that killed some 200,000 Mayan peasants, including one of their own leaders. This forced the organization into exile in Mexico for many years.
Since the signing of peace accords in 1996, the Union has been organizing openly to include women's rights in judicial reform, public policy and institutional change. By 2004, only six of 37 signed commitments and resolutions had been implemented by the elected government. The Global Fund supports the group's strategy of social mobilization to influence public policy.
The union is led by women, but it leverages the political will of both women and men to pressure the government to act on its promises to improve health care, increase economic benefits and guarantee education in native Mayan languages.
The group organizes the broader community through rallies, popular music and cultural events that highlight the ongoing problem of violence. In November 2006, Luz Méndez, the group's leader, won the prestigious Gruber Prize for Women's Rights.
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