In 1994, the indigenous communities of Chiapas launched an independence movement after decades of neglect by the Mexican government. The last 12 years have been marked by violence as the Mexican government fights the Zapatista National Army of Liberation in Chapas.
Through disappearances, torture and divisiveness the Mexican army tries to intimidate the indigenous population and prevent solidarity with the Zapatista movement. Amidst this violence, indigenous women formed a political force with Land of Women and became a key organizer in Chiapas.
In the Tzetzal Mayan language, K'inal Antsetik means "Land of Women," a fitting description for a group that is all about reclaiming the "space" that has been denied them: the land itself, as well as equal access to the political, economic and social spheres. The Global Fund first awarded the organization a grant in 1996 to bring together dispersed indigenous women's groups at a national conference.
Two years later, with a renewal grant from the Global Fund, Land of Women initiated a nationwide human rights monitoring program. The group's interviews of more than 40 indigenous women in militarized zones prompted sanctions against the Mexican government for its human rights violations. The group has sponsored workshops about a government transportation and industrial program called "Plan Puebla Panama," which is expected to displace indigenous communities in nine Mexican states.
As Land of Women's work on the political front continues, the group remains steadfastly committed to improving the status of women. Providing technical assistance to cooperatives of women artisans helps them gain a greater degree of economic independence.
As younger women begin to move away from their communities to pursue higher education and work in the cities, their workshops help assure that the young leaders leave with a strong sense of their indigenous identity.
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