Peacebuilding en Las Américas – March 9, 2018
Women Human Rights Defenders in San Pedro Sula, Honduras
“In Honduras, a woman dies every 13 hours with impunity,” said Aida Gonzalez, Alternatives to Violence Project (AVP) Facilitator with Mercy Dream Weavers. “The Honduran woman is an oppressed woman…She has to ask permission from her husband even to open the door of her home. Honduran women have a very high level of submission because the machisimo, the control of a woman by her husband, is very strong.”
Honduran women, however, have courageously stood up to and spoken out about oppression for decades, demanding their rights and the rights of their communities.
In early 2010, PLA partnered with Mercy Dream Weavers, an organization that empowers women to work internally on processes of holistic development so they can better harness their strength to organize and transform their realities.
Dream Weavers began in 1999 after Hurricane Mitch destroyed the social and physical framework of communities throughout Honduras. The Ministry of Mercy Sisters saw the need not only to rebuild communities physically, but also to offer programs for people to heal from their trauma. They found that healing internal wounds is essential to questioning practices of domination and discrimination–social, political, religious and personal–in order to generate new knowledge and change the structures that maintain violence and gender inequality.
With PLA’s training support and continued financial assistance, Dream Weavers has made AVP a fundamental part of their nonviolence and consciousness-building work. Dream Weavers trains new facilitators across the country, traveling to distant communities around Honduras.
“AVP empowers women. They learn how to value themselves and feel more secure and confident. They learn that to be nonviolent does not mean to be submissive; it does not mean to be oppressed. On the contrary, to be nonviolent means to insist that the rights of women are also important,” said Gonzalez.
Over the last seven years, they have completed an average of 15 to 20 workshops a year with Tolupan indigenous women in defense of their territories against illegal mining companies, Garifuna women dealing with domestic violence and illegal tourist developers poaching their lands, female teachers in impoverished pre-schools, high school youth, people incarcerated in prison and women’s groups across San Pedro Sula.
Workshops provide women with the emotional literacy to put their feelings into words, create community among each other, and ultimately work towards creating a future where they can prosper.
“AVP has continued training people who are intending to organize in defense of their lives because it touches their wounds and they realize how the violence has profoundly damaged them. They see how they themselves can continue reproducing this violence without realizing it… The spirituality and philosophy of nonviolence that AVP teaches allows them to connect with the dignity that they have as a person” said Nelly DelCid, AVP Facilitator and Founding Director of Mercy Dream Weavers.
In addition to Honduras, DelCid, has also promoted AVP with Sisters and Associates of Mercy throughout the Americas, including Argentina, Chile, Peru, Panama, Belize and Guayana.