Theses Master's

Renewable energy and the right of Indigenous women to participate: a gender perspective and human rights approach to the Unión Hidalgo Case, Oaxaca, México

Gomez Zepeda, Denisse Guadalupe

In Oaxaca – with one of the greatest potentials for wind power globally – some claim that wind energy development is another form of colonialism where local communities are paying the high social costs of large-scale projects while companies keep the benefits; the social fabric of the remaining Indigenous peoples is being torn apart in the name of climate change. However, others claim that wind energy is elevating the livelihoods of communities and is suggesting new forms of structures that allow women to thrive, changing and ameliorating gender dynamics. This research looks, from a human rights and gender perspective, at the Gunaa Sicarú wind farm, also known as the “Unión Hidalgo case,” located in Oaxaca, México.

The Zapotec community, civil society, and activists have been raising allegations of human rights violations since 2017 when Electricité de France (EDF) started planning the construction of a wind farm on the Indigenous land of Unión Hidalgo. Multiple legal proceedings nationally and internationally have taken place, including a civil lawsuit in France under the paradigmatic Duty of Vigilance Law that mandates French companies to identify and prevent risks to human rights and the environment that could result from business activities. In Mexico, the wind farm’s electricity supply contract between EDF and Comisión Federal de Electricidad (CFE) was canceled by a local tribunal last June 2022. Experts claim the Unión Hidalgo case can be “a potential milestone to show corporations what to do and what not to do.” Where do women fit in all of this?

From a feminist lens, I explore the gender dimensions of the Unión Hidalgo case aiming to portray the complexity between energy transition, Indigenous communities, and women’s rights. This case highlights the need to scale up human rights concerns from a gender perspective within the wind energy conversation. Locals’ response to wind energy projects in the region is complex; some claim: “We want wind energy, but not at any price.” Pursuant to a case-study approach and through qualitative research methodology, interviews were conducted with multiple stakeholders to provide a holistic understanding of each Union Hidalgo case stage from a human rights and gender approach. The dissertation is organized into seven chapters starting with an introduction and methodology, followed by the facts and context of the Unión Hidalgo case; then, Indigenous and Latin American Feminisms; Indigenous women’s rights; Gender, Business and Human Rights; and Insights from key informant interviews; and concluding with final remarks.


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Institute for the Study of Human Rights
Thesis Advisors
McGill, Eugenia
M.A., Columbia University
Published Here
March 8, 2023