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On-line version ISSN 2448-5799Print version ISSN 1405-1435

Convergencia vol.23 n.70 Toluca Jan./Apr. 2016


Scientific articles

Raising Awareness: socio-political organizations and practices of women in the south

Lucy Mirtha Ketterer-Romero1 

1Universidad de La Frontera, Chile.


The article presents some results of the research "Policy and women in the Araucania: other possible worlds in times of globalization", analyzing sociopolitical organizations of women in Araucania (Chile). Methodologically, the descriptive qualitative research collects information from fifty organizations. The results make it visible how women gather, organize and act to install worldviews, establishing intercultural relations between Mapuche and non-Mapuche rarely valued by the social sciences. The findings show a complex economic and cultural territory, social relations determined by the presence of Mapuche people, influencing events acquired by the women's movement. Relations of domination, subordination and resistance between cultures configure a colonized territory, cultural affiliations assigned to women are patriarchal, conservative, sexist and influenced by religion, which place them in the private domestic and reproduction space.

Key words: women; women's organizations; socio-political practices


El artículo presenta algunos resultados de la investigación "Política y mujeres en La Araucanía: otros mundos posibles en tiempos de globalización", analizando organizaciones sociopolíticas de mujeres de La Araucanía (Chile). Metodológicamente, la investigación cualitativa descriptiva recoge información de 50 organizaciones. Los resultados visibilizan cómo las mujeres se reúnen, organizan y actúan para instalar visiones de mundo, estableciendo relaciones interculturales entre mapuche y no mapuche pocas veces valoradas por las ciencias sociales. Las conclusiones muestran un territorio complejo, de relaciones sociales, económicas y culturales determinadas por la presencia del pueblo mapuche, que influyen en las manifestaciones que adquiere el movimiento de mujeres. Las relaciones de dominación, subordinación y resistencias entre culturas configuran un territorio colonizado, de adscripciones culturales asignadas a las mujeres; son patriarcales, conservadoras, machistas e influidas por la religión, que las ubican en el espacio privado doméstico y la reproducción.

Palabras clave: mujeres; organizaciones de mujeres; prácticas sociopolíticas


The article presents part of the results of the doctoral dissertation "Policy and women in the Araucania: other possible worlds in times of globalization",1 in particular those focused on the analysis of the women's sociopolitical organizations in this Chilean region. The research, methodologically, in qualitative descriptive nature, had among its objectives to analyze the sociopolitical organizations2 of women in the region Araucania, their strategies and forms of organization in political practices and how these interrelate with those of the national and Latin American movement. The results of this objective are those presented in this article.

The data collection tools used were: an Organizational Cadaster,3 developed for this study, that identified 50 organizations of women; in-depth interviews, seven of which to well-known women who were region leaders; and the review of documentary sources produced by women, which made it possible to describe organizationally and socio-politically the women's organizations in the region, between 1980 and 2000.

Thus, a contextualized diachronic research found expression, which aims to understand, from the very same women inhabitants of the south of the country, how they experience and interpret the social world around them and which they build from the social interactions with other people (Pérez, 2004; Ruiz, 2012). In this case, we present how the women from the Araucania are protagonists of the interactions and alliances among them, with the national movement and with Latin American movement networks; a social and political network from where it is possible to comprehend their practices and actions in favor of their rights.

The results of the study allow to document and visualize the women of the region gathering, organizing and acting in the last thirty years in order to establish their visions of the world in the local and national society, establishing alliances and intercultural relations between the Mapuche and non-Mapuche, rarely valued and highlighted by social sciences.

Theoretical and methodological scope of the study

Theoretically, the research is based on the contributions made by Latin American women, who, through the sociopolitical practices of the feminist social movement, have generated knowledge and individual practices which question and aim to transform patriarchal society, establishing themselves as relevant actors in the policy of the States in the last three decades (Valdés, 2000; Vargas, 2002; Molyneux, 2003; Lagarde, 2003; Vargas, 2008; Valdivieso, 2009).

The qualitative research, considering that "thinking the qualitative is to reconstruct the opaque weave of the fabric that constitutes the social world" (Scribano, 2008: 14), aimed to imagine women incorporating the gender subordination in the reflection, expanding the methodological possibilities of social sciences, while obtaining new data and forms of data; using common women's texts and objects which give an account of the social construction of their gender (Perrot, 2009).

The strategy to select the cases and the women's organizations that participated in the research varied along it, as often occurs in studies of this kind (Salamanca and Martín-Crespo, 2007). For the case of women's organizations, initially the study began with the ones known by the researcher. Afterwards, other organizations that made contact were registered under a snowball sampling selection and used the relationship networks that women organizations generate throughout their sociopolitical actions. In the case of the interviewed women leaders, the participants' selection, was conducted by the so-called convenience method - the leaders who were in the city of Temuco between December 2009 and February 2010. In this way, in the study a group of participants was put together, which is consistent with that expressed by Salamanca and Martín-Crespo (2007: 3) that "in deciding when and where to observe, whom to talk to, as well as which information to process and register and how to do it [...] we are not just deciding what is relevant or not, but we are also drawing several samples of the available information".

The instruments of data collection were:

  1. The Cadaster of sociopolitical women organizations in the region of Araucania, designed for the study. It consists of two parts. The first records data that identify the organization, its goals or mission, the relationship with other organizations and funding sources; the second is related to the gender agenda of the organization, identifying the goals in this matter, the actions undertaken to achieve them, and the existence of records of such activities.

  2. In-depth interviews to become acquainted with women leaders in the region.

A total of 50 cadasters4 were applied to women organizations from several communities. Most of them were answered directly by the members of the organization, helped when necessary by student assistants.5 The in-depth interviews to key women leaders of the Araucania region were open conversations that aimed for the understanding of the meaning of their participation in women organizations, often obtaining answers rather emotional than rational (Ruiz, 2012). These seven interviews were conducted by the lead researcher and the participants were selected according to defined inclusion criteria.

Documentary information was also collected from the conversations of understanding (Scribano, 2008) conducted in the Schools of Citizen Participation and Leadership in 2008, where approximately one hundred women, women leaders and members of sociopolitical organizations of the region participated. The ordering, categorical data collection and analysis of the gathered information in the research was done using the software Atlas Ti,6 a group of IT tools for qualitative analysis of textual, graphical and video data.

Analysis and results: The women of Araucania and their organizations

In the 1980s, Chilean women, some supporters of political parties, others simply from their families' political affiliation, engaged in the human rights defense of thier relatives, victims of the dictatorship's political repression: political prisoners, victims of torture, missing detainees; generating or participating in several political action networks that promoted to resist the dictatorship and to take actions to restore democracy.

In Araucania, mothers, couples, wives and daughters of left wing parties' missing and/or prisoner supporters, played their part in the organization for the dictatorship's repression resistance. They were the ones who in practice, administrated and preserved left-wing political parties as social movement bodies, as Encarnación Alarcón, a well-known leader of the Association of Relatives of Missing Detainees, states: "the Communist Party of Chile would have disappeared of the region without us, the women"7 (Ketterer, 2004).

The presence of the Mapuche community joined the initiatives, which resulted in the organization of women of that community deriving out of an "in-depth analysis of the reality that affected the communities and women particularly, due to the experience of ethnical and gender discrimination" (Valdés, 2000), thus creating a sociopolitical process that is here to stay.

A first categorization of sociopolitical organizations of the women of the region is by their origins. It recognizes four types: a) those originated from non-state organizations' (NGO) actions, mainly in the 1980s b) those created from the post-dictatorship State during the nineties c) the autonomous, created by women themselves in the first decade of 2000s, and d) Mapuche women's organizations.

Organizations originated from NGOs

NGOs had a significant presence in Araucania during the dictatorship, especially in rural areas. At that time, there were three types of NGO: 1) charity; 2) palliatives of the State reduction due to the structural adjustment and implementation of the neoliberal model in Pinochet's dictatorship; and 3) development and integration promoters of emerging groups: youth, women and ethnic groups (Jiménez, 1996). Nevertheless, this kind of specialization was challenged by the high rates of poverty in the region, derived from the State reduction and the implementation of the neoliberal model. Supported by international cooperation, several rural programs were installed for women that wanted to improve their economic conditions by means of the organization and farmer training: for Mapuche and non-Mapuche8.

Most of these transferred productive knowledge in textile weaving, horticulture, apiculture, small cattle management, as well as family health, nutrition, organizational support, personal development and entrepreneurship with the implementation of the approach Women in Development - WID), in a kind of compensation for "the gender bias in the traditional programs of development" (Carrasco, 2003: 9).

This is a common case in Chol Chol Foundation, NGO that until 2003 joined approximately two thousand women in the region9. In this practice, as in other similar ones, most of the efforts of the NGOs groups revolved around the high rates of regional poverty, and the limited use of the gender approach made promoting women to focus more on the development of revenue-generating productive actions for their families' survival than on promoting their rights as women.

According to the approach developed by Caroline Moser (cited in Murguialday, 2005), during that decade, women of Araucania were more focused on solving practical needs of gender than on solving the strategic ones, which turned out in the reproduction and strengthening of family and production activities that are often an extension of a gender division of work; seldom questionable among rural units.

Nevertheless, the creation of spaces where rural sectors, mainly Mapuche, could gather without the presence of men, as well as the trainings in organizational topics implemented by the NGOs, collaborated so that once the democracy was restored in 1989, some of them could gain power as women leaders of their communities, creating her own NGOs or bonding with the State; mainly through The Indigenous Law, promoted by The National Corporation for Indigenous Development (CONADI).

Ana Tragolf is one of these women. She describes the beginnings of the Corporation of Mapuche Women Aukinko Zomo in the 1990s: "When I left, one of the first people who had founded the organization was María Isabel10 [...] she and other women left the organization and nowadays they are carrying out multiple activities in the community, connected with [indigenous] communities and their organizations of women too" (Tragolaf, 2009).

Something similar happened with the members of the Center for Women's Development, urban women that got together in 1994, publicly declared feminists, pioneers of this kind of actions in the region, which subsequently makes them reflect on this disjunctive concept of women's reality in the region, as stated by its founder Fresia Cea:11 "After this public activity [referring to the Press Conference in 1994], we devoted ourselves to clear up a little bit more what feminism was and why it was a novelty. Some women had heard the term, but they did not know exactly what it was about. Or some others, I would say, had an affective relationship with the concept, but they did not know anything beyond that (Cea, 2010).

Therefore, with more information about the international platform of women's rights and the signed agreements for this matter, the State and some NGO's adopted the gender approach in their development proposals; although initially it was more an imposition for the financing entities than a self-motivated idea among development stakeholders.

An organization that exceeds this initial productivity definition is the one of rural and indigenous women, Hueichafe Domo, which comes out in 2004 from the National Association of Rural and Indigenous Women (ANAMURI). "Hueichafe Domo means entrepreneur women, expectant, persistent, always alert to any situation. In this sociopolitical organization, we have the ability to face all these problems that deteriorate the rural world, we offer the training for strengthening personal and organizational development of women in rural areas" (Catalán, 2009).

These women formally organized in 2004. Nevertheless, they have worked together since the Land Reform. As Eliana points out "a lot of them are there before 2004, even before 1973. When in that time the Land Reform Centers, rural establishments, Mother Centers and Rural Cooperatives" (Catalán, 2009). Some of them joined ANAMURI12 since the late 1990s and have the important responsibility of building in the system, the acknowledgement for indigenous women (Painemal, 2008). Hueichafe Domo is an organization integrated by Mapuche women and aims for: "[the] individual strengthening, the personal development providing all the elements so, as women, can protect themselves, how to face society and their social contexts" (Catalán, 2009).

For that reason, the members are constantly trained throughout productivity, environmental and marketing courses financed with competitive funds of national and international organizations.

In 2009 the food security program called Land Desertification Recovery,13 supported by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) stated: "we competed for the fund as Hueichafe Domo, of course, and we won. We applied for it again because we wanted to include fifteen communities" (Catalán, 2009), aiming for teach more members basic concepts of climate change, desertification and the effects on women's diet and their families'.

Women organizations originated from State actions

In the mid-1990s, the "gender approach" arrived to the region, promoted by the National Women's Service (SERNAM), a public institution created to include it in the public policies. This new approach of relations between men and women caused resistance among the groups of professionals and technicians in charge of the implementation of policies and social programs in the region. Little was known about the research in this matter, and much less about the international conventions supported by the Chilean government. For this reason, the SERNAM enhanced its efforts to provide special training in is matter.

For the implementation of the approach in the rural zones of the region an expansion of the institutions' intervention was needed, incorporating Mapuche farmer women as the subject of attention, before that, they worked in mostly with the men that owned the farming units. To that end, the creation of women organizations is encouraged. An example of this is the National Association of Rural and Indigenous Women of Lautaro, informally established in 199514 and legally in 1997, gathering fourteen Mapuche women to "the joint production of flowers, its commercialization and joint problem-solving [of the business]" (Cadaster no. 1).

Most of the time, the women's productions are used by themselves in their households such as vegetables, fruit, small cattle and eggs, as well as different kinds of handicrafts, where weaving stands out: "We work producing vegetables and making handicrafts. The money we earn is for helping our associates' households" (Cadaster no. 23).

The achievement of economic autonomy is the motivation to their practices, as one member of other organization points out: "To get the economic resources for each one of the women that shape the organization, to be more independent, to create relations with other women, to feel appreciated and to improve our self-esteem, to promote respect among the associates" (Cadaster no. 34).

To these productive activities, the autonomous organizations of Mapuche women add some more, more connected with the promotion of human rights, creating alliances to support the indigenous movement.

An example is Aukiñko Zomo, an organization dedicated to develop production initiatives related to health and environment issues. Hence, the cultural aspect is important for women, who are highly motivated to enter to the market with more autonomy and expedience in search for the balance or küme mogen.15

Autonomous women organizations

They arise as a result of women empowering in the region, in order to "create personal self-training, and political, social and technical training of the organization's members" (Cadaster no. 46), for the purpose of making their needs and requests relevant in the regional public sphere. They are the most representatives in the Latin American feminist movement. Their members are often, but not exclusively professional middle-class women who live in the urban areas of the region. The reason of their participation is the awareness of their position in society and the correlated discrimination.

The fight for their rights is set up as an essential part of their lives:

I feel that the Women Radio Team are my ground wire. I also need the other side, not only being stuck in an 8-hour job. I need that kind of air, breathing like 'ah!!'... Not just leaving work, going back home and sitting to watch television. No! I need to keep in touch with other women, that they share their experiences and I can, to the extent possible, share mine. To know other ways of thinking, other cultures (Leal, 2009).

These organizations are financially autonomous, looking to fund themselves, and occasionally adopting political-partisan ideas, reenacting what they call 'women politics', and what Fresia Cea conceptualized as:

The practice women carried out by women to improve their situation and their context based on the fact of being women. These are the women policies. We are the ones who set them up from our bodies and implement them with our thoughts which comes from our own bodies. These are the women policies, the others are policies that others make for the women. The government creates policies for women, the NGOs make policies for women, the private institutions make policies for women, the labor unions make policies for women (Cea, 2010).

Mapuche women organizations

There are two types if analyzed from the ethnic-cultural background of their members: 1) those established just by Mapuche women and 2) those integrated by Mapuche and non-Mapuche women. In the former, collected data in the research show that Mapuche women use preferably organizational structures specified in the current Indigenous Law no. 19.253,16 the legal body which since the 1990s regulate the organizational entities of indigenous people in the country. There is no evidence of cultural forms of Mapuche women organizations as a particular group.

Likewise, this Law defines three types of organization: 1) indigenous communities17 2) indigenous associations18 and 3) urban indigenous or migrants associations.19 Even though these types of organization pick up elements of traditional organizations of the culture, they are institutional fabrications of contemporary policy which make alterations that Occidentalize and colonize them; such issues have not been analyzed and discussed sufficiently by the current Mapuche organizations.

In the case of indigenous associations, Huitraqueo (2007: 68) states that "in the 9th Region [the Araucania] there are 378 associations; 40 of them (10%) are led by a woman; and y 31 of them are organizations exclusively by women". The Women's Association of Lautaro is one of the, which "brings together 14 women of different sectors or communities of Lautaro region..." (Cadaster no. 1), since the year 1997 they associated to work as the heart of the NGOs Transfer of Technology Program, specializing in flower cultivation and eventually, became owners of a land and a market stall adjacent to the city's cemetery, thus giving them the economic autonomy and it made possible "solve the problems jointly" (Cadaster no. 1).

Notwithstanding, the evidence gathered from the women members of this type of organizations themselves, and what is stated by Mapuche women in some documents could mean that in the Mapuche organizations men hold positions and kinship prevails; as Lucy Traipe points out: "Machismo exists in our culture and I could see it, It could be noticed by the way in which women were treated" (Lucy Traipe, 2006, cited in Painemal, 2008).

Nonetheless, Mapuche women of the región, make use of these organizations, particularly the indigenous community, as platforms for integration of other women groups and networks that address their issues and interests, generating a kind of mediation among 'the indigenous community' and its own gender causes aiming to transform the existing sexism within the culture. This practice can be seen among the members of indigenous communities that were record, who stated that they associated in order to "overcome the fact that the issue [of Mapuche women] had not been addressed, I find that in the community there is a lot of sexism" (Cadaster no. 8).

Multiple organizations, agreement on goals

Women of Araucania's purposes to organize range from the improvement of their economic conditions and the respect for their sexual and reproductive rights (Cadaster no. 35), including the complaint for the eradication of violence against women (Cadasters no. 35 and 42), the education and promotion of their rights in society (Cadaster no. 47). Thereupon, an interviewee states that women in the region seek "to strengthen and generate through a permanent day-to-day action, a change in people, men and women's relations in order to build a fairer society and thus to enable a social and structural transformation facing the existing patriarchy and capitalism." (Cadaster no. 45).

In this sense, some coincidences in the objectives and demonstrated organizational typologies are gathered, outstanding among them the desire to escape from poverty and to improve their life conditions; this is the goal whereby most of the women organizations in Araucania get together. Thereupon, in an interview it is explained that in the organizations is important to "promote business and improve co-operative flower production, [besides] to have the viability for submitting joint projects backing what we all work for" (Cadaster no. 1).

The autonomous organizations, which differ from the productive ones in regarding the objectives that link to the recognition of women's rights, have as a goal to broaden their gender rights, mainly the sexual and reproductive ones, which were at the center of public debate and continue to be the bastion of struggle for the Chilean women movement in the last decades.20

The eradication of violence against women, a common goal

Domestic violence in Araucania is a common problem for women, who are often the victims. In terms of the prevalence of this social phenomenon among Mapuche women, any data is held for the relevance if Mapuche community neither from the public health department, nor from the justice system, the backbone of government institutions in charge of this social issue. Women's testimonies were collected in former researches about this specific kind of violence, and not only does it affect Mapuche women, but also non-Mapuche females in the region (Tragolaf et al., 2007; Ketterer and Zegers, 2012). In the first group, nevertheless, the idea of a complementarity relation of genders is not frowned on and it is seen as part of the cultural tradition, which makes the existence of violence invisible.

Moreover, violence against Mapuche women has a different nature, apart from the one above, they also suffer structural violence, caused by the government in which indigenous conflict lies, as pointed out by the United Nations Special Rapporteur about the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, James Anaya (2010), the discrimination against belonging to a Mapuche community, and discrimination because of poverty, which is ultimately how gender merges with status and race, thus women in Latin America are in a subordinate place in society.

In Araucania, the first women organization started to make this visible and to work systematically with violence against women was the Women's Center in Temuco, in the nineties':

The project is called 'for a city without violence', because we realized that one of the most serious problems women suffered here in Araucania was violence, often treated as the violence exerted by men because they were alcoholics or because Araucania was the poorest zone, and this was characteristic of poverty. We could debunk that myth and stalled a new concept. A new perception in which violence was against us due to the fact we are women (Cea, 2010).

One of the main activities of autonomous women organizations in the region is to deliver information about violence against women, its articulation and the legislation that protects their rights:

To place the issue of violence and violence against women was a clear objective in those years, that was the year 2000, when we did not talk about it and the law did not exist, or it was starting to implement. There was a lack of information. Therefore, the objective was that. I think it was the main, the most political. The others were more internal issues like making the organization visible which was a space of professionals, by the way. But this was more important... and in that time what was ultimately more important was women empowering (Arriagada, 2010).

Socio-political women practices in Araucania

This section systematizes some socio-political practices done by autonomous women organizations to gain position of their issues in the regional public sphere. In this important group of actions, radio programs can be found: "microprogram[s], some radio slots and radio theater in order to spread them through community radio broadcasting" (Leal, 2009), even training workshops: "By holding workshops [...] we addressed the topic of sexual and reproductive rights. We hold workshops that concern sexual and reproductive rights" (Leal, 2009). Among the topics discussed are the human rights, the power relations between genders and the violence against women.

In the making of these practices, some women benefit from acquired experiences and skills in their lifetime, others from knowledge and skills developed in their professional formation; and mainly, learning from their own approach to feminisms, creating a sort of toolbox that allows them to generate and/or collaborate in other women's empowering processes in a kind of feminist pedagogy that provides "general and particular processes that go beyond the here and now in the battle against the patriarchal culture" (Korol, 2007: 3).

An example of this is the Women Radio Team of the region, which has professional members: psychologists, social workers, and an engineer. All of them gather round a digital radio station, as a way of innovation in communicating their message21, This has allowed them in a ludic manner, to permanently communicate with young women, keeping them informed about their sexual and reproductive rights as Ana María Leal says: "[we worked] three or four years ago in the Technical School because it draw our attention that even though the girls had all this information on hand they were a bit lost in all sexuality topic, particularly in contraception" (Leal, 2009).

Other kind of practices are the self-awareness workshops, "all the colleagues of the Women Center in Temuco had to enter to these Self-Awareness in Temuco and vital restoration. When we left, we started to apply ad offer them to other organizations and women" (Cea, 2010).

This practice that started in the 1970 in North America and Europe relation with Europe (De Dios, 2004; Varela, 2005), it is reproduced as a method in Araucania so many women could understand their own lives, empower as social actors and make their claims and rights through other people's awareness: "and so we went to many labor unions, schools where we asked for thee same. We went to many indigenous women organizations, to the communities and so we started to become well-known in the region" (Cea, 2010).

The Self-Help workshops are a variation of the Self-Awareness workshops. Their purpose is to disseminate women rights, often unknown by them. The workshops of the Women's Center of Inalafquen in the city of Villarrica are found in this context, there many women of the rural area of the communities of Villarrica, Pucón and Curarrehue participated so they could get informed about sexuality and women's rights" (Cadaster no. 21).

The Training Sessions are these organizations' activities with them, leaders and possible candidates of the region are trained, with the purpose of knowing and embracing in their socio-political careers "the history of women's participation in Chile" (Cadaster no. 28).

Women's organizations make use of the institutional networks and multimedia too to widespread their messages, particularly the Information and communications technology (ICT):

We go to debate in television, newspapers, radio, and internet. We [also] have been, for example, in sexuality fairs. We go to participate in some institutional roundtables, because if we do not go, the topics are not there. Therefore, those are the most specific actions implemented at this level, though it could be more institutional connected to public services (Arriagada, 2010).

The protests on the street are permanent actions of the women organizations of the region. On November 25, many women take the streets to express their repudiation to this scourge:

The most definite is the protest of violence against women. It is annual and takes place in November. This is like the most specific: there have also been other protests like the one in favor of the pill. There are specific activities where [women's organizations] involve more to other organizations or to other people that support us and our goals (Arriagada, 2010).

Networks and connections in women's organizations

In Araucania women organizations connect with others using various paths: a) personal contacts that the members of the organization own and share in order to achieve objectives and goals; b) contact with women of other organizations in the country; c) active and permanent participation in entities that bring them together for specific purposes like active and permanent participation that joined them for specific purposes like the Regional Observatory of Equity in Health according to Gender and Mapuche People, or the Rural Women Roundtable; d) integration of other national organizations such as the National Association of Rural and Indigenous Women (ANAMURI), network that provide spaces to connect to other Latin American organizations and issues: "ANAMURI is affiliated to CLOC, which is the Latin American Coordination of Rural Organizations, an international organization of farmers of all continents" (Catalán, 2009).

This form of connection with others allow the strength through experience exchanging in a national and international level: "Let's say we have been lucky. We have travelled to other countries to make our situation known and other social groups know about us. I have been to Brazil many times; I have been to the Basque Country, in Cuba and other countries of the Southern Cone and so did other women. Lidia, for example [has travelled] throughout La Vía Campesina" (Catalán, 2009).

Other kind of interactions between women of the region happens through institutional entities, such as:

  1. Those promoted by the government and that bring together women organizations in entities for dialogue and quest of opportunities improvement for them, for example the Equal Opportunities Roundtable. Such actions have often partisan interests that include the use of these entities to promote the government's actions and to get the citizen's approval. It might be possible that for this same reason, many women often go through but do not participate on a regular basis, therefore they become utilitarian in the sense of considering them as a means of profit or financial resource securing.

  2. The interactions promoted from the women's NGOs of other regions. These entities, although generally seen by some women as more inclusive in its objectives and agreements, are often criticized by the autonomous organizations for being based on political and partisan principles most of the times not shared. Furthermore, some autonomous organizations participate in search of network and alliance creation with other members of the national movement.

  3. Other kind of interactions are those developed by autonomous women organizations, which are often manifested in actions of rights education, as mentioned previously, support to public protests, campaigns against gender-based violence among others.

In general, this way of working in networks, seeks to make Araucania women's requests public at a local level and create partnerships and participation with other organizations of the regional civil society.


The region of Araucania in Chile is a complex territory of social, economic and cultural relations determined by the presence of the Mapuche people that influence women movement's manifestations in the region. The relations based on domination, subordination and resistance between cultures shape a colonized territory, where cultural ascriptions for women are patriarchal, traditionalist, sexist and influenced by religion, which limits them to the sphere of household and reproduction.

The historical resistance of Mapuche community toward the dominant culture abuse has given the allowance, many times at a discourse level, more than the material one, of essentialist cultural forms both in the family and in the Mapuche community making them the extended, patrilocal core in which women have the responsibility of cultural reproduction and positions them in dominant and respected place in these areas.

Nevertheless, the dominant intercultural relations, the culture dynamism, rural-to-urban migration, family transformations due to neoliberalism and its effects in labor and production sources have transformed such parameters, relocating Mapuche women to Occidentalized patriarchal contexts. This brings positive and negative effects on their opportunity to participate in organizations. In the same way, the region impoverishment in Mapuche communities mainly, implies the permanent regeneration of survival strategies of rural population.

This is why it is not surprising that an important part of the studied organizations have been the result of the intervention of external agents, either the government or private NGOs, more than being a result of the desire and motivation of the women themselves. The effects of the country's recent history are also reflected on the women organizations of the region since most of them appeared after the restoration of democracy in the nineties, as part of the process of reorganization of the social structure of the territory, starting as non-state organizations and later, as part of the government. All of this as a way of social structure reorganization divided by the dictatorship's political repression.

In this process, the women of Araucania experience the weight of gender dominant relations of patriarchy, while men often reject to participate in different nurturing and household activities, thus limiting their chance of participation in organizations. On a counterpart, their participation in feminine activities is a kind of resistance to the reorganization imposed by the socio-economic, neoliberalist and patriarchal system, adopting productive objectives that eventually help to overcome economic issues. Something necessary and imposed to meet with others in order to solve practical needs.

The support networks among women organizations take different shapes, as the ones between productive and autonomous organizations which collaborate in the structuring of learning and empowering processes required for the adoption of strategic requests.

The cultural differences among women of the region are also explicit in the relations between Mapuche and non-Mapuche women. This women intercultural form that sometimes do not consider their roots in their participation in productive organizations is expressed in other way when participating in organizations that aim for cultural objectives, while Mapuche women use the cultural and legal tools from their culture and the State to organize around socio-political objectives demanded by their people.

The evidence obtained show that both the government and NGOs promote women organization with a paternalistic tone, using collectivity as a way of solution practical issues generated from the neoliberal economic model; objectives of strategic nature that could transform the established social order are not promoted, and a real women participation in State's institutionalism or in non-state organizations.

Situations like these make the development in the region of Araucania more complex. The government through its public policies and development programs imposes a technical and political way of thinking that occasionally upholds a continuous usurpation against Mapuche people, generating contradictory judgments often incomprehensible for planners and executors of such policies.

The same criticism applies for the gender approach, since as it is more general, it does not allow to recognize the differences that might exist in the relations with Mapuche men and women. This, from our point of view, transgresses the cultural respect. It is a criticism that Mapuche women themselves make to the government's programs which imposes Occidental categories of equality between men and women, assuming that these can operate likewise in Mapuche culture.

This research allows documenting that in both government and NGOs, there is little support for social and political necessities to transform the social order expressed by women which might enable them to gain access to social, economic and cultural rights that may become a real change for them. Changes in land co-ownership for rural Mapuche women; or the creation of transformational processes based on the effective exercise of their rights: violence-free relationships; full enjoyment of sexual and reproductive rights and in this way, the existing patriarchal society in the region could be gradually and effectively transformed. Finally, we state that eventually the women of the region, by means of their experiences and organizational practices, are becoming aware of themselves and for themselves, placing their strategic demands and human rights in the heart of public debate.


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1Doctoral Program on Social and Political Processes in Latin America, ARCIS University, Santiago de Chile.

2We understand socio-politics as conceptualized by Manuel Antonio Garretón (2007:1) when pointing that a sociopolitical matrix presupposes that "any given society is defined by the particular configuration of the relations among: i) State, ii) system and political parties, and iii) civil society or social foundation.

3This instrument is described in the Methodology section.

4To order and analyze them, they are correlatively numbered from 1 to 50 and are found in: Ketterer, Lucy (2012), "Política y mujeres en La Araucanía: otros mundos posibles en tiempos de globalización", Santiago de Chile, Doctoral thesis on Political and Social Processes in Latin America, ARCIS University.

5Special thanks to the students of Social Work of University of the Frontier: Natalia Castillo Ciudad, Rocío Rodríguez Gallegos, Daniela Torres Oliver, Karla Romero Baeza, and the postgraduate student Sara Suárez.

6Copyright ©2011 by ATLAS.ti Scientific Software Development GmbH, Berlin. All rights reserved. Version: 339.20111116.

7Encarnación Alarcón is the widow of Florentino Alberto Molina Ruiz, Secretary-General of the Communist Party of the region who died on November 10th, 1973 in an event that was called (Attack on the Army Regiment Tucapel in Temuco). Her testimony was given to the researcher in her Masters thesis "Politics and identities: memory of the communist leaders of the ninth region), 2004. Within this framework, María Luisa Meyer, a communist woman of the region, also shared her experiences.

8There is a difference between Chilean Hispanic and Mapuche farmers of the region regarding land tenure and use. In the case of non-Mapuche, the farm workers were employed in latifundia or established during the Land Reform. However, the Mapuche are smallholding owners, which allows them to keep the family business for subsistence allowance (Durán, Basic and Pérez, 2000).

9In 1971, "the philanthropist James W. Mundell, after working for twenty years as a priest in the Chol-Chol area, creates The Chol-Chol Foundation, as an American non-profit organization in Washington D.C., United States, in order to contribute to the social development of rural communities living in poverty in Araucania, Chile" (Chol Chol Foundation, 2004).

10The Mapuche leader María Isabel Curihuentru Llancaleo.

11Fresia Cea Villalobos was a well-known leader of the region. She started a lawsuit in Europe against the culprits of his husband's vanishing, the Italian-Chilean citizen by the time of the dictatorship. More information at: (Radio Bio Bio, 2012).

12The ANAMURI was created in June 1998 and it has its origins in the National Encounter of Indigenous Women held in Temuco and promoted by Mapuche women leaders in Araucania; the meeting of the Coordinator of Mapuche women with women leaders of the of the former National Farmers Comission, promoted by the Centre for Women's Development Studies (CEDEM) and representatives of the Women's Department of the National Farmers' Commission, to agree on proposals for the Fourth World Conference on Women held in Beijing (Painemal, 2008).

14The establishment of this group of women is supported by the author, who during 1995 was working as an extension agent in the Transfer of Technology Program of the Agricultural Development Institute (INDAP) in the community of Lautaro, located 30 kilometers in the northeast of the city of Temuco.

15"Good living" in Mapuzungun, language of Mapuche people.

16For more information, read The National Corporation for Indigenous Development. (Government of Chile, 2012).

17Law 19.253 (2010) Section I, Paragraph 4, Articles 9, 10 and 11.

18Law 19.253 (2010) Section V, Paragraph 2, Articles 36 and 37.

19Law 19.253 (2010) Section VIII, Paragraph 5, Article 76.

20The legalization of abortion is one of the central petitions of Chilean women movement at this moment.

22Article product of the FONDECYT Project no. 01130542, Gender violence and its social representations in the Wanteche territory of Araucania.

Received: September 17, 2014; Accepted: September 24, 2015

Lucy Mirtha Ketterer Romero. Doctor in Political and Social Processes in Latin America, University of Art and Social Sciences (ARCIS). Currently working in the Social Services Department, Faculty of Education, Social Sciences and Humanities, University of the Frontier, Temuco, Chile. Research areas: women studies, gender and violence against women, women human rights. Recent publications: Lucy Ketterer, Marcelo Carrasco and Ana Arellano, "Building a Community Social Work Model to Address Violence against Mapuche Women in the Araucania Region of Chile", in Gaby Franger, Rebekka Krausb, Claudia Lohrenscheit (comp.), Human Rights, Inclusion and Social Worker, Coburg: Paulo Freire Verlang (2013); Ketterer, Lucy, "Derechos sexuales y derechos reproductivos en La Araucanía: experiencias de desigualdades y resistencias", in Alba Carosio (coord.), Feminismos para un cambio civilizatorio, Caracas: Rómulo Gallegos Center for Latin American Studies, CLACSO and Women's Studies Center, Central University of Venezuela (2014); Ketterer, Lucy, "Cuando ser mujer cuenta: reflexión acerca de un proceso de investigación en la Araucanía", in Athenea Digital. Revista de Pensamiento e Investigación Social, vol. 14 (2014)

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