The sources on gender and health in this module allow educators to explore Latin American women’s history from different angles.

On one level, the module introduces characteristics specific to Latin America as a region. It is designed to illustrate the characteristics of women’s lives specifically connected to a Latin American historical trajectory. Women in Latin America, the selections suggest, have a common history that sets them apart from other regions of the world. What are the characteristics of the region that shape women’s experiences? How are colonial experiences, or legacies, related to contemporary structures of everyday life that influence men and women differently?

On a second level, the module is designed to enable students to develop an understanding of the diverse local experiences within the region. Adopting a comparative perspective, educators might compare and contrast women’s lives and gender systems within Latin America. Doing so would remind students that the category of women is not a homogenous category. Consider questions that explore how race, class, age, and geography all shape Latin American women’s lives. They confront a variety of challenges shaped by categories other than gender. Why do indigenous women confront challenges different from those of women who claim European descent? What are the causes of the increased health risks rural Latin American women have faced throughout the 20th century, and what distinguished their lives from those of urban women? How could these differences be overcome when looking for ways to improve the lives and health of all Latin American women?

On another level, the module allows for an exploration of general, structural as well as particular, personal influences on women’s lives. Several sources expose official views and cultural perceptions regarding the “nature” of women and men. Students can find such perceptions, for example, in the language used in legal documents and in news reporting. Others sources should inspire questions regarding women’s views and understandings of the worlds surrounding them. What are the problems women identify in their local experiences? How are their problems (and experiences) shaped by the legal, political, and cultural systems that surround them?

All three levels of analysis might be addressed simultaneously through the following discussion questions.

Discussion Questions:

  • How are women’s rights defined or limited in official sources and legal documents?
  • What is the underlying understanding of the nature of women that has shaped legal documents?
  • How have women attempted to control their own lives and health in these legal, political, and cultural settings?
  • To what extent do women’s reactions and different ways of mobilizing confirm that women in Latin America are, indeed, not a homogenous group?
  • What factors in women’s lives do we need to consider to understand the options and limitations they confront when addressing their rights and health?
  • Which voices are we willing to take more seriously more than others? Why?