Women’s Participation in Central American Revolutions: A Theoretical Perspective

Authored by: T. David Mason

Categories: Violent Conflict
Sub-Categories: National Security Forces and Armed Groups, Violent Extremism
Country: Nicaragua, El Salvador
Region: Latin America and the Caribbean
Year: 1992
Citation: Mason, T. David. "Women's Participation in Central American Revolutions: A Theoretical Perspective." Comparative Political Studies 25, no. 1 (1992): 63-89.

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Evidence from Nicaragua and El Salvador indicate that substantial numbers of women from humble backgrounds have participated in those nations’ guerrilla armies, and not simply in support roles but as combat soldiers as well. This article analyzes the dynamics of societal change by which non-elite women are mobilized for participation in guerrilla insurgencies. The rapid social, economic, and demographic changes that accompany dependent modes of development erode the stability of rural social structures and contribute to male spouse abandonment of the family. Impoverished female heads of households have become involved in grassroots organizations whose programs address their immediate economic distress and mobilize them for collective action in support of economic and political reforms. When the regime represses this political activism, it seldom discriminates between males and females in the application of repression. Faced with the threat of violence, women have joined insurgent organizations that promise, if nothing else, security from state repression.