A day to pay tribute to Guarani and Kaiowá women

Decades of standing up for their human rights while facing discrimination deserves widespread recognition on International Women Human Rights Defenders Day.

International Women Human Rights Defenders Day gives us the opportunity to pay tribute to the hundreds of thousands of women who tirelessly defend human rights while facing unique challenges. In a world where patriarchy and discrimination exists on a day-to-day basis, women standing up for their human rights are exposed to specific and devastating risks.

This is the example of the Guarani and Kaiowá indigenous women, who have long fought for their right to ancestral territory, along with the indigenous men in their community, while being mistreated by an  institutional system that discriminates them outrageously.

In addition to being prevented from access to and control over their own ancestral lands –thereby implying the prevention of the fulfilment of their rights as indigenous peoples towards self-determination, as well as of their access to food, water and medicinal plants – women see their health and reproductive rights “systematically violated”.

As expressed at the last Aty Kuña, the political space for Guarani and Kaiowá women, which took place last September, hospitals either “deny” women assistance, or “treat them unequally”. With all their traditional medicines destroyed and their own ways of living increasingly undermined, this puts them and the lives of infants at extreme risk during and after pregnancy.

In their experience, “long hours in the waiting room” and “months of medical neglect” lead many to have serious health risks, and some others "to die on the operating table”. The constant exposure to pesticides as well as the rising levels of malnutrition – unleashed by the gradual pollution and dispossession of land and natural resources – add to their daily struggle.

The lack of access to and control over their Tekohá*, together with unequal treatment in all spheres in life, from education to health, preclude the realization of the rights of indigenous women. Their contribution to the collective effort of Guarani and Kaiowá communities is crucial to advance the struggle and deserves widespread recognition and support from all over of the world.

Get to know some women Guarani and Kaiowá here.


*Tekohá is the term used to refer to their territory. Tekohá goes beyond a mere description of a piece of land. The prefix teko- represents a series of norms and customs of the community, while the suffix -ha has a connotation of place. Tekohá is the physical place – including land, jungle, fields, watercourses, plants and remedies – where the way of life of the Guarani and Kaiowá indigenous peoples develops. 

This piece is part of the #TekohaisLife, an initiative to shed light on the struggles of the Guarani and Kaiowá to regain access to and control over their ancestral lands. In a world increasingly alienated and disconnected from nature, it is key to boost the understanding of non-dominant and sustainable approaches to mother earth. Learn more about #TekohaisLife here.