Posts Tagged ‘Lolita Chávez’

IM-Defensoras: women human rights defenders in Central America support each other

February 25, 2014

MDG : Women activists in Latin America  : protest against violence in Mexico

(A woman protesting against violence (c) Yuri Cortez/AFP/Getty Images)

An excellent piece in the Guardian of 25 February by Jo Tuckman describes the impact of the Mesoamerican Human Rights Defenders’ Initiative [IM-Defensoras] which through solidarity tries to protect woman human rights defenders. The Honduran Berta Cáceres – who has been under threat for years because of her campaign against extractive industries – says that without solidarity from her peers, it could all be over. “The solidarity is why I am alive and why I am here,” she told a recent meeting of the IM-Defensoras in the Mexican capital. “And, of course, we are committed to continue.” (https://thoolen.wordpress.com/tag/berta-caceres/)

IM-Defensoras is a three-year-old effort to provide women rights defenders in the Central American region with protection mechanisms that are gender-sensitive and adapted to different contexts, and that go beyond traditional options. The organisers of IM-Defensoras say activists in Central America are increasingly being targeted and governmental protection is rarely effective and difficult to trust. The initiative documented 414 attacks on women activists between 2010 and 2012, a period in which it says 38 women were killed, with the vast majority of their deaths blamed on the state.

The initiative is built around the creation of national networks of activists. So far, these have been set up in Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador and Nicaragua, with about 360 members. The plan is to expand these networks and set up new ones in Costa Rica and Panama. The importance of the networks stems partly from the recognition that women activists are usually less able to rely on family and organisational support than men. For example, a female leader in danger is much likelier to face pressure from her family, or even from male colleagues, to withdraw from activism. “The gender perspective means recognising that women defenders have already broken the rules“.

The networks are the basis of most of the work of IM-Defensoras. In times of emergency, the networks may draw attention to a credible death threat or organise temporary exile, for example. They devise strategies that take into account complications such as whether an activist also has children.

The Guardian article also draws attention to an often overlooked aspect of support networks: fighting stress. The initiative also encourages activists to pay attention to the stress they accumulate from sustained threats, attacks, sexual harassment and smear campaigns. The risk of burnout is increased further by the fact that most women activists receive no salary and so also undertake paid work, at the same time as spending several hours a day on domestic chores. After getting supportive messages, Lolita Chávez, a Guatemalan K´iche’ (Mayan language) human rights defender is quoted as saying:  “I said to myself: ‘Maybe others think I am a terrorist but there are sisters telling me I am a defender of human rights’,”… “It was a counterbalance.” Chávez also spent three weeks in Mexico at a workshop to help her look after her own mental and physical health, which, like most women activists, she had neglected for years. “The initiative has filled me with life, but there are many sisters out there who are still waiting for this kind of support,” Chávez told the Mexico City meeting. “It is possible to do what we do and not be a martyr.” (see also: http://thoolen.wordpress.com/2014/01/29/lolita-chavez-about-land-and-life-in-peril-in-guatemala/)

 

Central American women put their lives on the line for human rights | Global development | theguardian.com.

Lolita Chávez about land and life in peril in Guatemala

January 29, 2014

This time just a short presentation of Guatemalan human rights defender Lolita Chávez who spoke in Ottawa, Canada, for a group of supporters some time ago (March 2013): Lolita Chávez says it is love of life that motivates her to risk her own as an outspoken Maya Kiche activist against racism, mining, and hydroelectric project developments in the highlands of Guatemala. As a result of her leadership in Guatemala’s Indigenous movement, she is a frequent target of threats, accusations and attempts to label her as working against the national interest, as some sort of enemy of the state. Read the rest of this entry »