Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Chile: Mapuche Women

Life in Araucania is tense and distressing. Residents in this southern Chilean region, where 30 percent of the Mapuche population lives, say the police routinely violate their rights and face constant threats of losing their lands to transnational companies.

"For us, the land is very important," said historian and Mapuche leader Millaray Painemal. "Mapuche means people of the earth, and our struggle is to recover the lands we´ve historically had that are now in the hands of plantation owners or transnational companies."

This historical demand to recover communal lands is at the root of a bitter struggle with the state, which has responded with repression.

Women Mapuche leaders, even though they do fight for their people´s general cause, are also struggling to overcome historical repression against their gender."We have had to fight for women to know which international treaties there are," said the Rayen Voygue president, referring to the United Nations´ Convention on the Elimination on All Forms of Discrimination against Women. "That´s why the role of women´s organizations is important so we can empower ourselves with these instruments."

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