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Mayan Women Build Integrated Pathway for Violence Survivors in Mexico

Fatima Leonor Gamboa - UN Women
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March 19, 2014

In the words of Fatima Leonor Gamboa, a 28-year-old Maya indigenous defense lawyer who represents women survivors of violence. She works to ensure greater gender equality among Maya communities in Mexico’s Yucatan peninsula.

We all start our writing by mentioning the things that characterize us. I can say that I am a woman, although that shouldn't matter since it is merely one of humanity's sexes. Nevertheless, due to the situation of inequality and exclusion we women face, gender awareness really is important to transform the inequality with which we relate to men and other women.

In addition to being a woman, I am a descendant, heir and member of the indigenous Maya people, something that in a world in which we are all minorities, so diverse, so plural, should not be important either. However, given my personal situation and the urban context in which I grew up, it is something I need to mention. Firstly, because as a member of an indigenous population, I am aware of another way of conceiving my existence, my relationships – with energies, nature and my own indigenous sisters and brothers who, for more than 500 years, have been calling out to the rest of humanity, inviting it to join forces to make this world better, without discrimination, without injustice, for a more humane and inclusive world where no individual is worth more than any other, because we all have the same heart.

Secondly, since my family situation meant that I was born in an urban area and I grew up with a formal education that, far from strengthening my Maya identity from childhood, rendered it invisible, "westernized" me. It fenced me into the socio-cultural spaces where I could find myself and others like me, from which, now with greater awareness, in community work and indigenous education spaces, I have been recovering and strengthening. However, like many indigenous young people growing up in cities, we are victims of negative stereotypes that society has given us, such as “indigenous equals ignorant”, indigenous equals life without "progress" or social backwardness, etc.

I work for greater gender equality between the brothers and sisters of our peoples in the Maya communities in Yucatan. I am a lawyer who represents women suffering gender-based violence, although in my walk through life I have become aware that most of the violence to which we Maya women and men are exposed is State violence, which is multifactorial. From the theft of our lands, the disruption and prohibition of our practising our own medical knowledge, the imposition of its decontextualized education systems oriented towards ways of life that are foreign to us, to the disdain with which they regard our authorities and the over-regulation of our legal systems so as to bring about their extinction.

All these forms of violence are much more structural in nature than the violence that exists between Maya men and women, and they are precisely the ones that occupy me at the moment. For this reason, I am currently building an integrated care path for dealing with violence (gender-based and State) in which I am involving both indigenous and non-indigenous authorities so that together we can recognize one another as human beings and address one of the biggest problem areas for women – gender-based violence.

In this way, we are creating strategies rooted in our context, in our reality, not only to eradicate gender-based violence but also to begin inter-cultural dialogues between indigenous Maya authorities and State authorities in search of a good life, of a life with identity, free from violence of all kinds.

What I hope to achieve at CSW is to bring forward the voices of my indigenous sisters from Mexico and Central America, so that our ways of ancestral life may be considered in international decisions, through the generation of intercultural dialogue, so that Western and indigenous perspectives may coincide and intersect in order to achieve a world of respect and social inclusion.

Fatima Leonor Gamboa is attending CSW58 on an Yvonne Hebert scholarship.

See the original at UN Women

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