Land Reform

Impacts of neoliberal globalization policies on agrarian reform settlements and the resistance of the women of the MST to…

Renata Gonçalves Honório

For the Landless Workers’ Movement (Movimento dos Trabalhadores Rurais Sem Terra — MST), the struggle for land is considered a struggle of the family, which includes men, women and children. The guidelines of the MST mention the necessity of constructing new gender relations within the movement. This perspective changes the life of the women involved in some respects.

Since the beginning the MST has made the struggle for agrarian reform the priority of its actions. This struggle demands, according to MST documents, the participation of all the landless workers. These documents stimulate mainly the participation of women at all levels. The feminine presence is visible mainly during land occupations, when frequently they are at the front line in armed confrontations with the “clandestine” and/or state militia.

The recognition of the necessity of female participation is the result of a complex and contradictory process that is still going on. On one hand, in the initial phase of its development the MST talked very little about gender questions. In its first publications, concern about the formation of the women is non-existent. The so-called “woman question” was either absent or was treated as an internal subject and, therefore, did not need to be publicized. In the 80’s, when little was known about this movement, it a National Commission of the Women of the MST was organized that pressured the movement in order to have groups of women inside the encampments and settlements of each State and demanded that the leaders in these States support the women’s organizations within the movement.

Several National Meetings led to the publication, in September 1989 of the first edition of the General Norms of the MST, where a chapter was included on the “articulation of the women”.

We can identify different moments and spaces regarding the participation of women in this important movement of struggle for the land. The first one of them corresponds to the phase of the encampment, where new sociabilities have to be built, and the second one is the settlement, when men and women conquer the land.

In this work we intend to present succinctly the experiences of role inversions in the encampments of the MST and after that, deal with the reduction in women’s participation in the settlements. Our objective is to give evidence that the policies implemented by the Brazilian State , submissive to globalization, have a catastrophic effect on agrarian reform settlements, mainly for women, as in this setting there predominates an erosion/reversal of the emancipation of rural women workers. Facing the obstacles imposed by the State, the women organized themselves within the MST and reacted. On the one hand, we will discuss the experience of struggle of women in Pontal do Paranapanema (State of São Paulo) and, on the other hand, the possibilities for change with the implementation of new models of settlement that allow an organization like the encampments, where there is greater equality between men and women. This model brings elements of resistance to neoliberal globalization, which allows the emancipation of workers and, mainly of women who work.

Full Article

Gender and natural resources: Maya women and the Agrarian Land Reform in Mexico

Maria Consuelo Sánchez González
Centro de Investigaciones Históricas y Sociales
Universidad Autónoma de Campeche
Financiado por INMUJERES-CONACyT y UAC.

Translation revision by Holly Yasui


Anthropology, like other disciplines, has contributed to reflect on social groups, cultures, products, ideas and transformations in the context of the globalization (Good, 2000). In general terms, globalization shows a world interconnected in multiple dimensions, ambivalent, discontinuous and heterogeneous, that not only encompasses the interests of capitalism, but also extends to the political, demographic, ideological and cultural realms, which generate multiple meanings and give rise to new social forms, to transformation, reinvention and reconstruction of already existing processes. The present work analyzes the change of Mexican agrarian legislation from the perspective of gender in the context of collective rights of the land-use in a Mayan community in Campeche , pointing out that the work of the Mayan farmer is based on collaboration, with well-defined roles based on respect, reciprocity and the work group.

Gender studies

The relationship between gender and natural resource rights is a topic of much current interest. Rocheleau and collaborators (1996) in Africa have included a gender perspective on natural resource management. While the family remains the primary social system in many parts of the world, (Sachs, 1996), public and private places, home and workplace are often divided into male and female domains of access and control. In many parts of the world, for example, kinship-based institutions regulate labor and embody power relations structured around gender and age (Fortmann 1990; Agarwal 1994 and Rochelau et al., 1996). Often these differences lead to conflict. This is of particular importance for populations that depend on communal resources to supplement income, particularly in places were women can not own and control land (Fortmann, 1985, 1990; Arizpe and Botey, 1987; Agarwal, 1994, Deere and León, 1998). The studies on the impact of agrarian reforms on the women of the Third World are especially excellent. On this subject, the pioneering work of Bina Agarwal on the relations of gender and the agrarian rights of the women in South Asia is definitive. Few researchers have analysis of such scope, though there are some important exceptions, such as the works of Deere and Leon (1987, 1995, 1998); Arizpe and Botey (1987); Zapata (1995) and Scatters (1999). These works analyze the role of gender relations in the context of neoliberal reforms carried out in Latin America during the reformist period of 1960s and 70s. These works indicate that most womenhave not benefited. Many women do not have formal or informal legal access to the land nor are they able to make decision in questions related to the use of the land (Deere and Leon, 1998; Zapata, 1995; Scatter, 1999). Although there are not legal barriers to acquire land, few women were or are owners of their parcels. Furthermore, most women live under practices based on customs that guarantees use-rights to the women, but the control of the resources falls to men (Stephen, 1994, 1996; Goldring, 1996; Green, 1996; Perez, 1998 and Scatter, 1999). Zapata (1995) analyzes the experience of the Women’s Agricultural Units (UAIM) established in 1971. Based on the experience of the women studied, some of the greatest obstacles are public opinion, their own spouses, other non-participating women and local authorities.
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