Since 2003, The association of Indigenous Women of Santa María Xalapán (AMISMAXAJ) has grown from a small group of rural women who met in secret and asked themselves “Do we have rights?” into a respected public organisation participating in debate on women’s and indigenous rights at a national level.
AMISMAXAJ seeks to promote women’s rights and the ethnic identity of the Xinca people in the mountain communities of eastern Guatemala, and defends the Xinca’s ancestral land, including its natural resources. Among its other activities, it monitors and raises awareness about plans for mining and oil extraction in the region.
Through these activities, its members are often challenging powerful economic interests, as well as traditional values about the status of women, especially indigenous women.
They have been threatened in various ways, from overt death threats to intimidation and break-ins to their homes and offices.
In November 2010, Lorena Cabnal, one of AMIXMAXAJ's leaders, visited London as part of a European advocacy tour.
Lorena, who has received death threats in the context of her work, was able to raise awareness of this, and of the work AMISMAXAJ around issues such as mining, violence against women, and the criminalisation of protest.
She met with the British Foreign Office, various Members of Parliament, and human rights organisations, and spoke at a conference on indigenous and minority rights, held at the University of London's Senate House.
PBI has accompanied AMISMAXAJ since 2009.