JASS is co-leading a fact-finding mission to Honduras (October 20–24) and Guatemala (October 25–29). Women, Land, and Peace: delegation to Honduras and Guatemala is jointly organized with the Nobel Women’s Initiative, the Rigoberta Menchu Tum Foundation, and JASS (Just Associates). This 20-person delegation will visit to hear first-hand testimony from women leaders, indigenous activists, and human rights defenders and communities defending rights and the environment in violent contexts; these are the very women and networks that JASS Mesoamerica works with and accompanies every day. JASS’ own Executive Director Lisa Veneklasen will join a group of journalists, philanthropists, and filmmakers, and Nobel peace laureates. including Tawakkol Karman (Yemen), Shirin Ebadi (Iran), Jody Williams (USA), and Rigoberta Menchú Tum (Guatemala).
We’ve joined forces through #WomenLandPeace to amplify the voices and perspectives of our allies in the region. Their testimonies bring to light the nature and causes of violence, including the role of US and Canadian policy. They spotlight the often invisible, yet crucial, roles women play in holding communities together and their creative strategies for protecting lands, waters, indigenous rights, and lives.
What you can do
Please join the mission virtually and share information with your own networks:
- Follow twitter feeds from the delegation #WomenLandPeace
- Follow @JASS4justice @JASS_Meso @NobelWomen on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram
- Read about the report from the 2012 Mesoamerica delegation, Survivors to Defenders.
- Donate to support JASS work.
- Use JASS tools to deepen your analysis on feminist movement-building and organizing: We Rise: Movement Building Reimagined
- Support women human rights defenders in Guatemala: UDEFEGUA, IM Defensoras Guatemala, La Puya
- Support women human rights defenders in Honduras: IM Defensoras Honduras, COPINH, OFRANEH
- Add your voice to the calls of local women defenders in Honduras asking for a halt to U.S. military aid to Honduras until Berta Cáceres’ case is resolved: the Berta Cáceres Human Rights Act.
#WomenLandPeace builds on and updates the findings of a previous fact-finding mission in 2012; check out our findings in Survivors to Defenders: Women Confronting Violence in Mexico, Honduras and Guatemala. During this joint fact-finding mission with the Nobel Women’s Initiative in 2012, we helped draw attention to
- the violence and human rights crises in the region;
- the ways they specifically affect women;
- and how women organize in response.
The 2012 mission helped to create opportunities for dialogue, as well as relationships among women activists and their networks. The delegation established important connections between frontline women defenders and influential decision-makers in the North that continue to shape advocacy and media to this day.
Since our 2012 delegation, levels of impunity and violence in Honduras and Guatemala have increased. Honduras and Guatemala are among the top five countries for the highest murder rate; Honduras is #1. Violence against women human rights defenders and their critical role in leading efforts to protect natural resources and democracy are dangerously underreported and receive little national and international attention. The popular perception – that drug cartels are responsible for most of the violence in the region – is beginning to shift.
Yet corruption, targeted repression, and collusion between governments and organized crime are well-documented. The region has seen an increase in:
- investments by corporations and governments from the Global North (in particular the US and Canada)
- infrastructure in disputed areas
- security, drug interdiction, and “anti-terrorism” projects
Security aid and the US-financed “war on drugs” have militarized the region, particularly Honduras, and deepened the violence. As documented in a report by Global Witness, the US and Canada have played critical roles in fuelling violence and human rights crises, while Canadian companies account for between 50 and 70 percent of all mining in Latin America. Systemic discrimination against women and indigenous peoples exacerbate:
- failing justice systems
- widespread impunity for human rights abuses, including femicide and sexual violence
- underlying inequalities
Affected communities argue that mining and megaprojects displace communities and increase poverty while posing environmental risks such as contamination of drinking water, destruction of arable land, and the dismantling of culture and community. Women often lead the struggle for land rights and therefore become the main targets of violence from project employees and private- and state-security forces. These actors use sexual violence and rape as a method of eviction and social control and public displays of violence to intimidate activists. Over time, this normalizes violence against women and perpetuates dangerous dynamics and narratives that further engrain violence. This was the case with Honduran renowned activist and indigenous leader, Berta Cáceres, who was assassinated in 2016 for her courageous efforts with the Lenca community to protect land, water, and rights.
Most individuals and groups facing threats are those opposing land grabbing, extractive industries, industrial timber trade and large-scale development projects” –2016 Report of the UN Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights Defenders
Other activists and human rights defenders – including students, LGBTQ activists and journalists – are at risk and under threat for speaking out against militarization and efforts to dismantle basic democratic rights and institutions.
With all of these factors in mind, it has become even more crucial to:
- support the work of community activists and movements
- understand the causes of violence
- determine how best to work in solidarity
The 2017 Delegation: #WomenLandPeace
We launch the delegation in Honduras with Nobel peace laureates Tawakkol Karman (Yemen), Shirin Ebadi (Iran) and our longtime collaborator and friend, Jody Williams (USA), and then later Rigoberta Menchú Tum (Guatemala) will join us in Guatemala. JASS’ ED worked closely with Jody on human rights in the 1980s in Honduras and other parts of Central America, together sharing a long-held view of power and change, and in particular, an interest in the impact of US security policies over three decades. Delegates also include human rights experts, journalists, a documentary filmmaker, and philanthropists from the US, Canada, Guatemala, and Honduras.
The Delegation will visit communities in resistance impacted by unregulated mining, logging, and hydropower; and meet with civil society leaders, governmenst, and international officials from the UN, the Organization of American States, the US, and Canada to discuss the human rights crisis in the region and specific cases against women defenders. We will specifically visit indigenous communities where conflicts have flared:
- In Honduras, the delegation will visit La Esperanza and Rio Blanco, the site of a planned hydroelectric dam in Lenca territory – plans that led to the assassination of internationally-recognized indigenous leader, Berta Cáceres in 2016. Members of her organization, the Civic Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras (COPINH), face constant threat for the continued protest of this and other projects.
- In Guatemala, the delegation will visit the community impacted by a mining project established by Tahoe Resources (a Canadian company). In January 2017, indigenous activists won a landmark ruling: a human rights violations lawsuit against Tahoe will proceed in Canada.
The delegation is organized by the Nobel Women’s Initiative, the Rigoberta Menchu Tum Foundation, and JASS (Just Associates).