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.