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In 1996, Guatemala’s Peace Accords were signed, concluding 36 years of war and genocide. However, persisting violence, including violences against women (VAW) and criminalisation of human rights defenders protesting inequalities provoked by postwar extractivism, threatens the democracy promised through formal peace. Specifically, women human rights defenders (WHRDs) play key roles in these struggles, which this paper explores. Drawing on ten months of qualitative fieldwork in Maya Q’eqchi’ communities in the Northern Transversal Strip (FTN) region, I ask: what roles do WHRDs play in resolving VAW and in challenging gendered and environmental injustices? Secondly, what political and collective strategies are drawn on by WHRDs; what challenges do they face; and what movements and processes do they engage in, to envision a better future? This paper foregrounds the intersections of municipal political spaces and a constellation of postwar women’s rights legal frameworks, including a 2008 Law on Femicide criminalising all forms of VAW as central to WHRDs’ mobilisations. I explore how locally elected members of consejos de mujeres (women’s councils) and municipal oficinas de la mujer (women’s offices) offer important spaces for WHRDs to organise collectively. I also highlight connections between WHRDs’ struggles against VAW, extractivism, and environmental devastation in the FTN. Simultaneously, I identify several ‘roadblocks’ to WHRDs’ engagement in these spaces and the dangers and criminalisation they face. Ultimately, such ‘roadblocks’ contribute to a vernacularisation of women’s rights in the FTN, which instrumentalises and empowers the language of rights for WHRDs’ struggles.

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