Women's income-generating groups in a global and a local market in Guatemalan indigenous communities: impacts on gender relations and empowerment

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Cowan, Kimberly Ann
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University of Guelph

This thesis is an investigation of the impact of two Women's Income-Generating Projects (WIGPs) on gender relationships and levels of women's empowerment in rural, Guatemalan, indigenous villages. The two groups are placed within the wider political economy to assess variations in women's experiences based on engagement in different forms of production. The candle-making group is not a capitalist enterprise and the weaving group produces for 'Alternative Trade', an altruistic-based system of trade which softens the harsh effects of capitalism through ensuring a reasonable wage for the producer. There have been some changes in both groups in terms of shifts in the sexual division of labour. Women also reported enhanced self-esteem and confidence. Nevertheless, male authority persists and the members of both groups have not reached a level of empowerment that challenges the underlying patriarchal structures that perpetuate gender inequality. Despite the failure to break down these structures, it is argued that the women have witnessed positive effects since earning an income, acquiring skills and participating in a group setting. These accomplishments may not provoke revolutionary changes, however, the effectiveness of WIGPs should not be underestimated. Through listening to women's voices, it has been revealed that gradual change may actually bring about more enduring change in these particular communities.

Women's Income-Generating Projects, gender relationships, women empowerment, rural, Guatemala, indigenous villages, income, skills development, engagement