For more than 20 years, the Women’s Association for the Development of Sacatepéquez (AFEDES) has organized to protect buen vivir, or good living in harmony with the earth, for women in Guatemala. As a group composed mostly of Indigenous Mayan Kaqchikel women, they struggle everyday to sustain a vibrant life of healthy families, meaningful work, productive land and a rich cultural heritage.
Central to their mission is ensuring every woman’s right to food. Bringing together rural indigenous Mayan women across Guatemala, AFEDES supports them in regaining control of their food by hosting trainings in sustainable farming and helping them organize locally to share knowledge and protect their collective access to land, water and seeds.
But the Women of AFEDES know that food justice is never just about food.
The Kaqchikel Mayan women have a rich cultural tradition of embroidered blouses, woven tapestries, and other textiles. With unique patterns and beautifully intricate hand-created details, the global market has taken notice and foreign corporations and non-indigenous designers have begun replicating and co-opting their designs without permission. Working in traditional ways, these designs can take months to produce, and many local women have struggled to compete while watching their heritage and skill peddled as cheap souvenirs and fast fashion.
In 2016, they resisted. Together, AFEDES and hundreds of women organized to bring a legal complaint to Guatemala’s highest court, demanding intellectual property rights and protection from transnational companies. A year later, the Kaqchikel Mayan weavers gathered to celebrate. Through landmark legislation, the Congress of the Republic declared that the Kaqchikel weavings were part of the heritage of the Kaqchikel Mayan people, and therefore, must remain a part of their intellectual property rights.
This victory is just one success story in the women’s ongoing struggle for buen vivir. Through projects aimed at the physical, economic and political autonomy of Indigenous women and their families, AFEDES is working to address the root causes of hunger and poverty and build the vibrant, healthy lives in harmony with the natural world.
For more information on their fight for intellectual property rights, check out this article.
For more on the great work AFEDES has been doing, visit afedes.blogspot.com
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