Category Archives: Gender in Latin America

Risk of assault at the border


Overview: Every year many migrants will attempt to cross the Mexico-American border coming from Mexico, El Salvador, and Guatemala etc. Many face the risk of sexual assault and rape because they are out numbered by men on the journey. Many take this journey because of fear of violence back home. Many women do not report these cases because of fear of deportation.

Questions: Why does this violence against women at the border go unnoticed? Why is this not a bigger recognized issue ?

Divergent post-conflict processes for women in Guatemala and El Salvador -Substantive Blog #5

Guatemala and El Salvador represent two emblematic cases of armed conflict in Latin America that, after leaving many victims, ended in the 1990s with the signing of a peace agreement. In this chapter Ellerby (2016) analyzes the differences between  these countries of women’s role in the post conflict stage.

The conflict lived in Guatemala had many similarities with the Salvadoran conflict. The author points out that both countries  were run as oligarchies for most of the twentieth century that found support from narrow US business, military and government interests. Both conflicts  were long, violent and repressive. This included , paramilitary violence, “disappearances,” systematic gender violence and targeting of women as women. Both confrontations included strong guerilla movements that  created coalitions between indigenous rural groups and urban middle class. Guerilla movements in both countries counted on women’s participation as revolutionaries and both countries had very active women’s movements prior to the peace accords  (Ellerby 2016:190).

Notwithstanding the above, the way in which both countries included gender issues in the peace negotiations was very different. In the case of Guatemala’s  peace accord, twelve issue-specific agreements  were included  as part of the same process, as well as, twenty-five statements regarding women’s security. Meanwhile in El Salvador’s agreement only one one statement related to gender was included (Ellerby 2016:185).

According to the author, there are three factors that may explain these differences. The first factor is the Access which refers to   the degree to which women are able to participate in the formal peace process. El Salvador ‘s  process was elitist and brokered by the UN outside of El Salvador, in contrast Guatemala’s process was inclusive and it made formal access for civil society to participate, even if it were in an advisory role. Elite versus inclusive processes mean women may have different ways to generate and promote their demands (Ellerby 2016:192).

The second factor is the definition of a Women’s agenda. In Guatemala, during the peace negotiations the Women’s Sector produced a list of demands that  included: a clear gender focus in development and repatriation and reintegration objectives and programs; criminalizing sexual harassment and domestic violence; expansion of women’s citizenship rights and political participation; protection for indigenous women and general indigenous rights; and increased access for women to credit, housing and land. In the case of El Salvador, since the women who participated in the  peace process mostly belonged to political parties, they failed to unify a gender position and they could not consolidate a Women’s agenda (Ellerby 2016:192-193).

The third factor is Advocacy, which is related to the degree to which the parties involved in the negotiation consider the gender issues as part of the process. Although Guatemala had only one woman negotiator , the gender issues were considered as complementary to peace agreement. In contrast, in El Salvador the several women who participated in the negotiations did not achieve that the gender issues had the necessary relevance and on the contrary these were considered as secondary and in many cases opposed to the revolutionary principles, for which they had a lot of resistance on the part of the groups participants in the negotiations (Ellerby 2016:194).

Guatemala and El Salvador  clearly show that the role of women in the post-conflict depends largely on the political will but also on the ability of women to establish a common agenda free of particular interests that allows them to defend it in negotiations and implement it in the reconstruction.


Ellerby, Kara. 2016. ” Engendering peace: Divergent post-conflict processes for women in Guatemala and El Salvador.” Pp. 182-200 in Women, gender equality and post-conflict transformation.Lessons learned,implications for the future , edited by Joyce P. Kaufman and Kristen P. Williams. London and New York: Routledge.

I “just” wanted to point this out…

As students — many of whom will be scouring the job market for opportunities in the near future — we are often preoccupied with the written and spoken language that we use; not solely for the numerous research papers, essays and presentations we are responsible for producing over the course of our educational careers, but because we are aware of the value judgments people make about our dialect and our prose.

How many of you have dedicated an immense amount of time to making sure the carefully-crafted letters and e-mails you send to peers, colleagues and future employers are “just right” before pressing send? We check and double check spelling and grammar, we make sure we use tone that’s appropriate for the intended recipient, and we fire away. Whether we speak on the phone or in person, we tend to be more careful about the words we use because unlike written language — which we are typically free to edit until we are satisfied with the final result — there’s no “taking back” spoken words (or the inflection behind them) when you’re trying to quickly convey a message or attempting to prove yourself worthy to someone whose approval matters to you. We think about our word choices — some people even code-switch between the dialect they use naturally versus the dialect they use in a professional setting — and hope that we aren’t coming across in a way that misconstrues our intent or puts us at risk of negative evaluation.

However, have you ever considered that even the subtle, seemingly innocent word choices you make may be stripping your words of their full power?  Ellen Leanse thinks so.  In her latest article — It’s time to stop using ‘just’ in your writing and speaking (published today at and in its original version located at — Leanse charges women with using the word ‘just’ as “a ‘permission’ word.”

“The more I thought about it, the more I realized that it was a “child” word, to riff Transactional Analysis. As such, it put the conversation partner into the “parent” position, granting them more authority and control. And that “just” didn’t make sense. … I began to notice that “just” wasn’t about being polite. It was a subtle message of subordination, of deference. Sometimes it was self-effacing. Sometimes even duplicitous. As I started really listening, I realized that striking it from a phrase almost always clarified and strengthened the message.”

Upon noticing the prevalence of the word “just” in the e-mails sent by women at her company, Leanse decided to conduct an informal experiment in which observers listened to a six-minute conversation between a man and a woman about their respective business startups — each had three minutes to speak — while the observers tallied the amount of times they each used the word “just.”  The man used it once; the woman used it either five or six times.  As Leanse states, this experiment was “not research: it’s a test that likely merits more inquiry.”  Until a formal experiment is conducted, I urge you to inquire within yourselves.

Look through your e-mails and text messages.  How often have you used the word “just” in an attempt to sound friendlier or non-demanding?  You may be unconsciously asking permission for your thoughts and words to be validated by others, which can diminish the impact behind them.  Ladies: it is time to stop diluting our convictions, our lofty goals, and our grandest plans with the constant use of what otherwise would continue to be considered an innocuous four-letter word in a sea of written and spoken communication.  I “just” thought you should be aware of your own authority and the power it holds when you wield it with confidence.  Laura Redman

Another take on intersectional issues in activism: Black Cuban feminists

Cuban hip hop artists Las Krudas


This Cuban Hip Hop group is interesting: Remember the critique that many black women in the US have of white feminists, and so they prefer the term “womanist” to “feminist”? Check out this group’s discussion of this issue and how they are framing themselves:

Black Cuban Feminist Hip Hop Band

Also a reminder of our discussion of communist countries attempting gender equality (and equality between races, in the case of Cuba).


Street Harassment Plagues Women the World Over

This BBC article succinctly sums up the issue of street harassment, a type of harassment that can involve cat-calling, groping, lewd comments, verbal threats/coercion, and may escalate into violence.  Every woman I know, including yours truly, has endured frequent street harassment wherever we go, not only while here at East Carolina University.  Many men consider “complimenting” (i.e. honking/whistling/hissing at) a strange woman on the street to be fairly routine and flattering to her, but simply do not understand or worse, do not care that their behavior is threatening. is a website that encourages women to take pictures of street harassers with their mobile phones, or to act like they are using their phones to report/photograph these men.  However, I worry that this act could bring about even more unwanted attention from street harassers, and even result in a violent attack against the woman who attempts to fight back in this manner.  What do you think?  Do you think that this is an effecting solution to combat street harassment, or do you advocate for the redesign of public transportation centers, as mentioned in the article?  What else can be done to fight this blatant and threatening sexism?