Empowerment for Whom? Evaluating Women's Empowerment under Indigenous Self-Governance in Oaxaca, Mexico

University essay from Handelshögskolan i Stockholm/Institutionen för nationalekonomi

Abstract: Recognising indigenous people's rights has been a priority for Latin American countries since the late 1990s. Yet, a legal recognition of their self-governance has been controversial as they are argued to contrast with liberal values of gender equality. This thesis investigates the effect of a reform in southern Mexico where most municipalities implemented a new form of governance system, where women have been excluded from political participation. Using data from the first gendered disaggregated census, we apply a geographical regression discontinuity design to investigate whether the change of governance system led to adverse effects for women's empowerment, measured through labour force participation, head of household gender and monolingualism. With a robust, biased-corrected estimation, we do not find any negative effects of the reform on these measurements of empowerment. Instead, we observe a positive impact on female labour force participation and has increased the prevalence of female head of households. We argue that, while indigenous autonomy could have other negative effects on women, liberal Western forms of municipal governance is not necessarily more empowering for women.

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