Creating Agendas for Change
This book has emphasized a number of themes in the lives of Latin American indigenous women. First, the chapters demonstrate that women have a very long history of performing productive labor and that the amount of work they do has increased over time. Second, images of women as active and associated with important cultural beliefs or as symbols of identity have an ancient, often unrecognized, history. Third, while the degree to which women participate in political activism varies, in many areas—past and present—women have played roles in community political and religious structures of authority and in agitating for change. Fourth, families, households, and kinship structures have offered women sanctuary and support, emotional and material, yet male-female and parent-child relations can be marked by tension, even violence. Finally, the preceding two chapters, in particular, show the varied and sometimes contradictory impact of globalization. It speeds up change, enmeshes indigenous communities and families ever more deeply in market-oriented forms of production and exchange, intensifies the exploitation of female labor, and undermines complementarity in male/female relations, yet it brings with it new forms of political organization and access to international aid and worldwide media. To a greater extent than ever before, native women can help shape their own images and give voice to their ideas, hopes, and agendas for change in a variety of contexts and forums, regional, national, and international. Yet the question remains as to whether or not globalization has enhanced or undermined indigenous women's agency.
Before answering this question, it is important to return to the two faces of agency discussed in the first chapter. It is agency in the sense of political action that often stands out in this book, and many times those actions were or are defensive in nature. Women's engagement with carrying out the projects—economic, political, religious, familial—necessary for daily com