My name is Andrea Ixchiu Hernandez, and I am a K’iche activist. I grew up in the highlands of Guatemala in a hardworking family. I was raised by two human rights defenders, my mom and dad. Since I was a child I started to understand the troubled context of my country: a national economy heavily impacted by neoliberal globalization, the process of concentration of land and dispossession around the territories of indigenous communities; also a country hit by war.
I was an early reader-I started at the age of 4- and so it was very easy for me to learn new words. This encouraged my dad to teach me how to deliver speeches when I was 5 years old. This is how I learned to speak my opinions freely, and to give my voice to those who can’t speak. Now I am an independent journalist. I have an opinion column at elPeriodico de Guatemala and am also a reporter for independent media in Latin America through Prensa OPAL Chile, and the Brazilian independent Midia Ninja.
It is a challenge to be an indigenous woman in Guatemala. We are discriminated against for everything, we are judged for what we wear, and how we speak. We are double oppressed–the non- indigenous discriminate against us, but the worst thing is that often the indigenous men oppress us as well.
In 2012 I was elected to be the President of the Board of Natural Resources of the 48 Cantones, the local indigenous authorities in my hometown of Totonicapán. It was the first time that a young woman was elected to this position. It wasn’t easy because I don’t wear indigenous clothes and I keep my hair short. The indigenous and non-indigenous criticized me for wearing jeans because they wanted me to wear indigenous clothes. But then I realized that boys didn’t have that problem. So it showed me all the pressure that is put on women to maintain our culture.
I have always rebelled against the oppression of women, even if it comes from within our own culture. I don’t feel comfortable in a system that judges me for what I wear, and not for what I do. This is one of my motivations to work everyday with young women and men to build new relationships, and build an equal society where we the women can have the same opportunities to develop ourselves without all of these pressures.
I have recently been working to develop strategies to challenge sexism in the media. My efforts are to take action and challenge injustice, inequality, and persistent violations against women human rights in the Guatemalan justice system.
And now I am here, at the Nobel Women Initiative in Ottawa, nominated by the Myrna Mack Foundation, to participate in the Sister-to-Sister Mentorship Program. I have been sharing stories about the struggle of a lot of women who work everyday to build a more equal country. But the most important thing for me is learning from all of the experiences of my amazing partners and improving my skills to go back to my country with new tools and networks to share with everybody.