In Honduras, the majority of female facilitators are long-term women´s rights defenders who are deeply committed leaders of social movements within the country. Their AVP work focuses on reaching and empowering other women and human rights activists, such as the indigenous Tolupan and Garifuna communities in northern Honduras facing transnational structural violence for taking stands against illegal logging and mining operations.
For me as a peace worker, I bet on the processes of healing. This is the work that I advance with children and women in the Garifuna communities. It is to go on discovering our own capacity to transform and learn how to listen to ourselves and be able to name things, to learn to break down all of these systems of mistreatment that we have internalized.
In 1998, Hurricane Mitch left Honduras in ruins. It destroyed a lot. I returned to work with the Mercy Sisters in 2000, because I saw a lot of depression, particularly with women, as a result of the destruction. You saw how the load of restoring the country was put on the shoulders of the women. In the shelters, the majority of men played soccer or cards while women looked for firewood, made food, and bought things. There was a lot of exhaustion and depression. Many women committed suicide. The Sisters looked for ways to respond to this, and Mercy Dream Weavers was born. We began working with women from different urban areas from marginalized and impacted neighborhoods. Part of the work was to create spaces where women could have time for themselves.
In 2002, the situation of violence in the country got worse because the gangs started to appear in the neighborhoods where we worked. We began to see women assassinated in very brutal ways: Dismembered, heads cut off, mutilated. One prominent example was a case of an ex-military U.S. citizen who murdered his Honduran wife. He put her cut up body parts in a suitcase. After this first case, it was like BOOM. We began to see other cases like this. There were horrible things happening to women’s bodies.
This was occurring and we heard nothing from the authorities. They were always blaming women. The police would say that the women should be in their home, that they should wear decent clothing, that they should not be out at that hour of night.
When we saw that this was not changing, we at Dream Weavers began to meet with other women’s organizations to talk about what was happening. We created the Forum of Women for Life and began to report what was happening. We were the first group in the North to name what was happening in a systematic way and use the word, ‘Feminicide.’ Before this, nobody used this word. Through our actions, we got the Public Minister to take on a more vigilant role, but still impunity remained.