Rachel Volk

Date of Award


Degree Name

Master of Arts



First Advisor

Dr. Kristina Wirtz

Second Advisor

Dr. Laura Spielvogel

Third Advisor

Dr. Vincent Lyon-Callo


Guatemala, women, empowerment, neoliberalism, social solidarity

Access Setting

Masters Thesis-Open Access


La Oficina de Municipal de la Mujer, the Municipal Office of Women, is a recent creation of the Guatemalan central government meant to help address the inequalities that women experience each day. Like so many towns in Guatemala, La Laguna (pseudonym) contains high levels of poverty and unemployment. Here, women encounter difficulties finding employment, whether as a result of the poor economy or the bigotry arising from structural sexism and racism. My investigation of the OMM uses qualitative anthropological techniques to understand the purpose and effects that this organization has towards women‟s marginalized position in the town. The application of these techniques reveals that the OMM provides a foundation for individual and small group empowerment, but does not address the structural inequalities that permeate the country‟s institutions. Still, they forge a foundation for empowerment by transforming women‟s domestic duties into viable economic niches, providing a space for women beyond the private sphere that allows for the development of social solidarity, and demonstrating that women are knowledgeable to men, by arranging for women to teach men how to make different crafts at the local rehabilitation center.