Social Justice in Guatemala

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Social justice issues have been at the forefront of Guatemala for many years. Social justice involves a governing body ensuring all of its citizens have equal access to resources provided to them. This definition of social justice is far from fruition in the present moment, but progress has been made in recent years.

Social justice issues encompass a wide variety of topics, including, socio-economic status, location, religion, and food insecurities. Specifically, gender, race, and sexual orientation have been hot-button issues in Guatemala as of late, and continuous strides in each area are occurring. Nonprofits in Guatemala who are fighting for social justice issues, like gender, race, and sexual orientation, would greatly benefit from additional assistance in order to continue their invaluable work.

Social Justice Definitions

The concept of social justice is a relatively new one, with the term first arising in the early 1900s. Since its origin, the term has come to be rather strict in definition, with only slight variations in its explanation. The lesser accepted of the two definitions is more communistic in nature. This first definition of social justice defines it as total equality, meaning, everyone in a society is completely equal with one another. The next, more generally accepted, explanation of social justice is more capitalistic in nature. This second definition of social justice states that inequalities within a diverse society are inevitable, but should be kept within acceptable boundaries.

Despite the nuances of the two definitions of social justice, they still share an overarching theme with one another. Both explanations require citizens within a society to be able to access opportunities and resources equally. Furthermore, both social justice definitions require action or initiative by an outside source, such as the government. Putting these definitions together into a cohesive explanation, it can be said that social justice involves a governing body ensuring that all of its citizens have equal access to the resources provided to them, regardless of their background. Keeping this definition in mind, common social justice issues that arise are usually about race, gender, and sexual orientation.

Woman at a social justice rally
Social justice is ensuring all citizens have equal access to the resources provided to them, regardless of their background.

Social Justice Issues in Guatemala

Significant issues exist within the framework of Guatemala society that bar the progression of social justice. 53% of people living in the country are in poverty, with an exacerbation seen in rural areas. In addition to this, the majority of Guatemalan workers do not earn a livable wage and cannot afford a basic food basket. These issues pervading the country are a result of social justice issues.

These many inequities directly impact social justice and its movement forward. As defined above, social justice allows for some variation in the standards of living between individuals. Therefore, deviations in wealth, living conditions, and income are normal. However, the conditions in Guatemala are far outside acceptability in terms of standards of living. In addition to this, the locale of these issues also violates the definition of social justice. Impoverished communities and low wages disproportionately affect rural areas in Guatemala. In fact, in some rural areas, almost 90% of people live in poverty. Therefore, again, using the definition of social justice, it is clear that not everyone has access to the same opportunities.

These inequities seen in the country are indicative of social justice issues troubling Guatemala. For example, women in Guatemala are 44% less likely to have job opportunities, when compared to men. Along with gender issues, more examples of social justice problems are racial disparities, with indigenous populations being at higher risk of becoming a victim of violent crime, and climate change issues, with crops being harder to grow and harvest. All of these issues culminate into major social justice inequalities across the country.

Indigenous woman looking off to the distance
Indigenous populations are at a higher risk of becoming a victim of a violent attack

Poverty and low wages are indicative of social justice problems in the country. These social justice issues affect every aspect of a person’s life and contribute to its overall quality. Gender, race, and sexual orientation are all social justice problems that contribute to impoverished conditions. These issues are explained in more detail below and give insight into which areas Guatemala can improve upon and how far they have come thus far.

Social Justice and Gender in Guatemala

As discussed earlier, women have far fewer job opportunities than their male counterparts do. Unfortunately, these discrepancies only scratch the surface of the social justice issue facing women in Guatemala.

The average length of education for all Guatemalan women is only 4.1 years and over 60% of women live in poverty. In addition to this, women are often targets of sexual assaults, violence, and murders. However, the sentencing of multiple rapists in a recent court case surrounding the rape of indigenous Guatemalan women points to systematic transformation. This court ruling signals positive change happening for women all over Guatemala as the country strives for justice and gender equality. Gender equality has been described as, “A matter of social justice, allowing equal access to rights, resources, and opportunities.”

Social Justice and Race in Guatemala

Guatemala is home to over 6.5 million indigenous people, which is almost 50% of its population. Despite this large amount, there is routine discrimination against indigenous people in many different areas of Guatemalan society.

Employers often exclude indigenous workers and choose not to hire them when conducting job interviews. Also, Guatemalan society sometimes excludes indigenous people from holding seats in Government. This leads to an underrepresentation of indigenous people’s thoughts, attitudes, considerations, and feelings in their communities and their country.

In addition to this, indigenous people in Guatemala are more likely to be victims of violent crime and robbery. Despite these disparities, Guatemala is working to improve indigenous people’s circumstances. The country has adopted the UN Indigenous Rights Accord and has outlined indigenous rights in its constitution, taking steps towards social justice and equality.

Social Justice and Sexual Orientation in Guatemala

LGBTQIA+ representation is a fairly new concept in Guatemala. The country is very conservative in nature and holds strict traditional values on marriage, sexuality, and gender. Keeping this in mind, it is commonplace to look down on and discriminate against deviations from traditional heterosexual relationships.

Gay and lesbian individuals receive disparaging remarks about their sexuality from the public on a regular basis. The likelihood of social rejection keeps many queer people from coming out and expressing who they really are. Also, some gay and lesbian individuals are forced by their families to undergo conversion therapy for weeks, months, and sometimes years. This leads many to again, hide their sexualities and distance themselves from their communities. Sadly, these exclusionary actions of Guatemala’s society have led to the ostracization of queer individuals and the increased risk of suicide for people who are in the LGBTQIA+ communities.

LGBTQIA+ flags for social justice
Discrimination against members of the LGBTQIA+ community is commonplace in Guatemala

How To Support Guatemalan Nonprofits Fighting for Social Justice

Nonprofit organizations are leading social justice initiatives and fighting for equality all over Guatemala. Organizations that address gender inequality, indigenous rights, and LGBTQIA+ affairs are all ensuring positive social justice changes occur in the country. Even though Guatemala still has a way to go until equality, no matter the race, gender, or sexuality of the individual, progress in the right direction is happening.

In order for organizations that fight for social justice to continue their work, they require continuous aid and support. By donating your time or by making a monetary donation, you are ensuring that social justice nonprofits can continue working.

If you would like to support social justice nonprofits operating in Guatemala in their mission for equality, Pionero Philanthropy can assist you in your efforts.

Pionero Philanthropy meticulously vets all of its partners and performs an in-depth analysis of them in 5 key areas; Sustainability, Transparency, Efficiency, Impact, and Need/Relevance.

Pionero Philanthropy’s interactive map makes filtering nonprofits operating in Guatemala clear and simple. Rating, theme, region, and much more can all be easily organized using the interactive map.

Along with these resources, Pionero Philanthropy also provides consulting services to assist donors with the match-making process and help maximize the impact of their donations.

Please contact Pionero Philanthropy if you would like further information about our services