For women in Guatemala, a good Earth Day can mean simply holding onto a parcel of land that is legally theirs. Historically, however, women have little power in this Central American country. For example, a 2005 newspaper survey reported that men regard the ideal woman as "meek, docile, sweet and submissive," -- traits that do not bode well for women in property disputes. During negotiations, a woman's concerns around access to drinking water and inheritance rights are usually ignored, reports Dan Sadowsky of Mercy Corps.
But changes are happening for the better.
Mercy Corps is now training women in techniques of conflict resolution. Since their first class last fall, the eight Mercy-hired and Mercy-trained female mediators have already resolved three land conflicts, with seven more in process, Sadowsky writes.
"Even more impressive are the number of people the mediators have reached through trainings in topics such as self-esteem, alternative dispute resolution, local governing structure and land issues: 158 women who were selected by their communities to become leaders in mediation and another 1,800 women who have been trained by those leaders," he writes.