Indigenous and Global Feminist Perspectives on the Women of Chiapas
Women's reproductive health is a debated and complex issue in today's society. Nowhere is its severity more prevalent than in areas of extreme poverty such as south and Central America. The resolution to these problems is far from simple. Yet, women are increasingly taking control of their lives and forming groups to combat many of the prejudices that hold them back. However highly debated some tactics for resolution may be it is hard to miss the shear urgency with which the issues of women's rights and health call us. The fight for gender equality cannot overlook the importance of equality in health care and control over one's own body. Women's health is an issue that passes along its concerns to another generation every time a child is born.
Before being able to discuss women's issues in third world countries, it was important to find an area of study. For this, I chose Chiapas, Mexico. Chiapas is a place where the true effects of capitalism are felt on a daily basis. Upon the signing of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), the lives of the indigenous people living in Chiapas changed dramatically. Acorrding to Jeeni Criscenzo, author of Some Personal Observations on the Reasons Behind the Events in Chiapas, "(Mexican leaders) entered into trade agreements with foreign interests (NAFTA) that at US insistence, made changes to their constitution that effectively ended Indian communal land right making it possible for Foreign corporations to take Indian land and resources" (Criscenzo 2). But why did our government, and that of Mexico allow this to happen? Ms. Criscenzo answers that question with the following statement, "In the world of international economics there are only two entities of any value: the consumer and the consumable" (Criscenzo 2). In other words, since the people of Chiapas are not "consumers" and therefor not seen as people, they must then become the "consumables." In order to do this, their rights to their land have been taken away, leaving these people with little means for subsistence and sustainable life. This situation has left the people of Chiapas in a dire situation, yet even more so, the women of Chiapas suffer. However, these women have rebounded, and began to confront this infiltration of their lives and cultures by the formation of their own groups. The women of Chiapas, Mexico, are taking action.
The rebel movement designed to combat the forces of the Mexican paramilitary is known as the Zapatista National Liberation Army (EZLN), and more than one third of the EZLN is female (Capozza 1). The Zapatistas have waged a small, yet ongoing war for over five years that is making slow, yet progressive steps towards giving the control back to the indigenous people over their land and lives. And, as Korey Capozza points out in his book titled The Masked Women of Mexico, women play a crucial and active role in this struggle. "The...