The Zapatista Movement began on January 1st, 1994 by the Zapatista Army of National Liberation (EZLN) which was an indigenous armed organization who declared war on the Mexican Government demanding work, land, housing, food, health, education, independence, liberty, democracy, justice and peace. This uprising began in Chiapas, Mexico and addressed the limitations that both sides experienced during the struggle. They named this revolution after Emiliano Zapata, a hero from the Mexican Revolution and who fought for “land and freedom”. The 1994 revolt was an eye-opening event for the Mexican Government, the indigenous people and it also got recognition internationally. One aspect of this movement that isn’t spoken about too much is the involvement of women in the revolution and how they played a vital role in the fight for justice. This essay will capture the dignity with which these women carried themselves set against a backdrop of racism and exploitation. Peasants turned into warriors, mothers turned into revolutionary leaders, they have changed their own lives and have changed the world around them and have brought awareness and change to their community.The EZLN was organized in secret for 10 years, recruiting people from rural indigenous villages. Then in 1994, the outbreak began due to the enactment of NAFTA, North American Free Trade Agreement, on January the 1st which was viewed as a death sentence to the indigenous people in Chiapas. They saw this as a government betrayal due to opening up opportunities for the United States and Canada who would buy or rent their land. The indigenous agricultural workers feared that the international business would wipe them out of the local markets. Aside from NAFTA, Chiapas has experienced much discrimination against the indigenous people that reside there making services difficult to access. The historical marginalization and the enactment of NAFTA are the two main factors that sparked up the Zapatista Revolution. After 11 days of violence (with more than 300 people dead) the Mexican Government and the indigenous rebels began to negotiate. From the Chicano Movement to the Sandinista Revolution women everywhere have fought side by side with men for their people’s freedom. Women have been important actors and have made viable contributions to social movements and national liberation struggles all over the world. While most inevitably women have faced discrimination within their own organizations, they also had to fight for women’s rights to be included in society. This struggle addresses the patriarchy that still resides within societies today and nor can women’s freedom be disentangled from racial, economic and social justice. In the words of Comandanta Ester, from a speech she gave in Mexico City’s central plaza in 2001, “We are oppressed three times over, because we are poor, because we are indigenous, and because we are women.” Aside from fighting for basic needs and for economic justice women have to fight for their own rights as women and this shows the sexism that lays within the state of Chiapas. At the start of the revolution, women wrote their Revolutionary Women’s Law in 1993 to guarantee that women have the right to a fair wage, to choose their partners, to decide the number of children they want to have, to healthcare, to education, to participate in community affairs and to hold political office. Incorporating their demands will establish equality with men. The movement has been successful in bringing awareness to women’s rights issues in the region and has sparked other young activists around the world to fight for what they believe in. After watching a video about how women were involved in the movement there was a woman that gave a speech and she spoke about how only men had rights and that even her father told her she was worthless. Women at the time were not respected. Many times is a woman was raped or abused they were usually perceived as guilty. Since the start of the movement, the participation of women in the EZLN has strengthened women’s voice for social change and gender equality. The revolutionary movement has given women the opportunity to express their opinions openly, enjoy decision-making and demonstrate power in public. Husbands have also been encouraged to start taking responsibility for work in the home, particularly in regard to caring for the children.Women made up one-third of the combatants in the Zapatista army with several that have severed in high ranking positions of military authority. Aside from the social justice against women, in Chiapas, women have a long history of abuse and treatment as second-class citizens. Women have been advocating for their rights for decades in Mexico to eliminate domestic violence and rape and to be treated fairly in the judicial system and it was not until armed conflict started that women’s work became visible. When women joined the movement they contributed to the armies success immensely. They took up arms, worked with the sick, trained other soldiers and fought alongside other revolutionists. Women had the ability to take and give orders regardless of sex. This demonstrated the respect earned by men and women in the movement. At the beginning men had a difficult time taking orders from women, but once they saw how crucial they were they eventually cooperated. The Zapatista women do not identify themselves as a feminist group, but as another voiceless group within the movement that needs to be heard. Women’s roles in the revolution were more crucial than men’s participation because they fought for freedom as well as gender equality. Many women who are directly involved in the EZLN have typically left their homes and families to live and train at the Zapatista training camps in the secluded jungle regions of Chiapas. In these camps women have access to substantial education which has allowed them to learn how to read, write and talk in Spanish aside from their indigenous language which is an essential skill in order to gain any type of advancement in Mexico. Also by living in these camps, women enjoy a steady source of nutrition which is rare for women in Chiapas because they often times must wait until their husband finishing eating and then the women can eat after. This community of women has allowed for them to have an enjoyable substantial life. It has allowed them access to freedom from physical and sexual abuse that is prevalent in this region.Some women believe that by joining the movement they are solving the women’s rights issues in their region. However, many women who have joined the Zapatista Movement must make the difficult decision between marriage and a family or involvement in the army. Some do not marry because then they would not be able to attend meetings or visit other communities because their husbands would not let them attend. Unfortunately, the majority of women in Chiapas do not give up marriage or a family, thus resulting in thousands of sexually and physically abused, illiterate and malnourished women at home with no voice in their household or community. Hence, making the women involved in the movement a minority. Also many times they are looked down upon as deserters of a traditional family and tribal values. The community banishes women who leave home by accusing them of promiscuity and lack of respect for men.Zapatista combatants wear ski masks when they are active in the military. The masks serve two purposes. First, the Zapatistas wear masks to symbolize that they are people without a face to the Mexican government. Second, the Zapatista masks keep individual combatant identities secret so that they are not targeted by paramilitary troops. Maintaining anonymous identities is crucial to avoid being targeted by paramilitary assassins; this is especially important for women because they face an increased risk of being raped by men in paramilitary troops. An obstacle within the movement is changing the minds of the older generations of women because they believe that it is the husband’s duty to beat their wife to ensure that she upholds to her responsibilities, as it has been traditionally taught. Some of the most pressing issues amongst women involves a woman’s lack of power and ability to make decisions for herself, thousands of sexual/physical abuse cases, and the lack of accessibility for basic resources, such as education, healthcare, and nutrition. Keeping women illiterate prevented them from rebelling against the democracy and traditional customs. Still, many women are under the control of men and/or their husbands in Chiapas.Following the involvement of women in EZLN many pro-women’s rights organizations have been founded with the goal of helping women of the region to improve their human rights status. This shows how one movement can influence other movements, better communities and gain social justice. The ten Revolutionary Laws demanded by the women are, “First–Women, regardless of their race, creed, color or political affiliation, have the right to participate in the revolutionary struggle in any way that their desire and capacity determine. Second–Women have the right to work and receive a just salary. Third–Women have the right to decide the number of children they have and care for. Fourth–Women have the right to participate in the matters of the community and have charge if they are free and democratically elected. Fifth–Women and their children have the right to Primary Attention in their health and nutrition. Sixth–Women have the right to education. Seventh–Women have the right to choose their partner and are not obliged to enter into marriage. Eight–Women have the right to be free of violence from both relatives and strangers. Rape and attempted rape will be severely punished. Ninth–Women will be able to occupy positions of leadership in the organization and hold military ranks in the revolutionary armed forces. Tenth–Women will have all the rights and obligations which the revolutionary laws and regulations give.” Women demanded these laws because they did not want to return to their assigned stereotypical and historical gender role of domestic work after the revolution was over and even though not every law has been met they will not stop fighting until every law is accounted.Overall, women’s desire to have an active voice in indigenous communities helped create an atmosphere that was more open to women’s political and social participation than the past. Several anthropologists that had been working in the Chiapas region noted that women began to articulate concerns using new language during the late 1980s; indigenous women began to develop a rhetoric around which they could express frustrations with domesticity, spousal violence, and poverty (Eber, 1998). When the formation Zapatista movement provided an outlet in which indigenous people could unite to express their grievances, women were eager to express their concern. Kampwirth states that as a result of their desire to become more active in their indigenous and national communities, “women, equipped with new independence and new skills – but also new grievances – became open to mobilization directly in the EZLN, or indirectly to a social movement that sympathized with the EZLN” (Kampwirth, 2002, 93). Other demands that women made along with men was to plots of land. Most importantly they redefined the meaning of democracy in personal as well as political terms. Throughout the revolution and continuing on until today women have demonstrated a great deal of resistance and agency amongst men and the patriarchal society of Mexico. Women understand that their role in the movement is not only as women, but as indigenous women with a multitude of roles and responsibilities. Many women from their role and either are traditional or nontraditional. According to a study majority of women portray the nontraditional role, but they still have limitations like being a mom and caring for her children. Overcoming machismo is one of the challenges Mayan women constantly have to tackle. Many women still do not know how to handle so much responsibility and often times get shy and quiet, but with more time and practice the women have become stronger and more vocal. Women now hold positions of authority in their communities’, commissions and among EZLN insurgents. They can also support their families with the income that they make as artisans, thus becoming less dependent on their husbands. Women’s participation in the Zapatista movement has improved the previously limited view of indigenous women. As a product of the sociopolitical climate that existed before and during the 1994 Zapatista uprising, indigenous women committed themselves to the EZLN army, played important roles in Zapatista community organizing through cooperatives and family networks. These actions taken by Zapatista women transformed the way that the international world perceived indigenous women in Chiapas. Therefore, by becoming important actors in the Zapatista political scene, indigenous women carved out a “space and a political vision that links home, community, and nation to a new framework for being indigenous in Mexico – autonomous in economic, cultural, and political decision making but part of the Mexican nation” (Stephen, 2001, 64). This passage emphasizes that a new female indigenous identity was created by Zapatista women activists; this identity was associated with increased social, political, and economic agency for indigenous women. While the EZLN is rightfully known for many influence and contributions, there is another, often less noted piece of the story that goes unnoticed. Women’s leadership within the organization is one of the most compelling aspects of the Zapatista movement. Zapatista women have served as insurgents, political leaders, healers, educators, and key agents in economic development. Women’s participation in the EZLN has helped shape the Zapatista movement which has, in turn, opened new spaces for women and led to dramatic changes in their lives. A woman who was abused as a teenager at the hands of her husband chosen by her father would later join a caravan of thousands of Zapatistas marching on Mexico City to demand indigenous rights. Along the way, she would meet with other Mexican women and urge them to fight for their liberation as she had. This movement serves as an example of how indigenous uprisings can put an end to indigenous exclusion and oppression and how women play a significant role in the success of this revolution. Overall, Zapatista indigenous women have more opportunities to become educated, become financially independent, and participate in community affairs as a result of large number of female combatants in the EZLN army and the declaration of the Revolutionary Law of Women.