Theses Master's

A History Of Activism Of The Guamanian Women’s Social Movement: From The Fourth World Conference On Women In Beijing 1995 To Present

Lai, Breanna G.

While the priorities of the key advocates of women’s rights issues on the unincorporated U.S. territory of Guam have remained largely the same over the past quarter century the gusto of the Guamanian women’s rights movement has dissipated, dangerously finding itself amidst risk of extinction. This harmfully implicates Guamanian girls and women as human rights violations in the form of gender discrimination remain substantial limiting not only their wage earnings but also their access to reproductive health and sexual education, subjecting them to a high rate of teen pregnancy, sexual assault, rape, and family violence. The early 1990s in Guam was an active time for the Guamanian women’s rights movement as key actors were organizing in preparation for the Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing in 1995. In 1990 a contentious debate, concerning women’s reproductive health, erupted on island when the governor signed Anti-Abortion Bill 848 into law, sparking activism like never before on an island with a nearly 90 percent Roman Catholic population dividing many Guamanians, especially its women into opposing camps. This energizing incitement of activism of the Guamanian women’s rights movement surrounding a particular human rights violation has since been lost; replaced with a plethora of women’s social organizations that abstain from engaging with current human rights violations consequentially creating a detrimental illusion of gender equality on the island when in reality local statistics and testimonies prove women remain inferior. Many key feminist actors feel this is due to a combination of occurrences including the island’s economic prosperity in the 1990s, resident’s Catholic faith combined with a machismo dominated cultural attitude, the divisive nature of women’s issues, and Guamanian women leaders who are bound by their traditional cultural principle of respecting their elders. The truth is, the women who have broken through Guam’s bamboo ceiling only represent a finite fraction of the female population of the island whom are highly educated and/or socially and politically well positioned. The majority of Guamanian women have intersectional identities, influenced by a history of both Spanish colonization and Americanization that has stripped women of their ancient matrilineal social power. These women continue to invisibly suffer in silence as their mothers, and grandmothers did before them; enduring frequent incidences of sexual and family violence, limited access to reproductive health and sexual education, and unequal wages in comparison to their male counterparts.

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More About This Work

Academic Units
Institute for the Study of Human Rights
Thesis Advisors
Martin, J. Paul
M.A., Columbia University
Published Here
December 10, 2016