“I believe that in the midst of all that despair, we need to nurture hope in ourselves as women, to believe that we are capable, that it’s possible to do something on behalf of our people.” – Berta Cáceres, 2014
It’s been a troubling week in troubling times. In the face of political fear mongering, people across the world have pulled together and amplified demands for change. Mourning and mobilizing is how love conquers hate.
Orlando, June 12. How did a night of dance and celebration for Gay Pride become the deadliest shooting in U.S. history? And then, we were all shocked by the murder of British MP and social justice advocate, Jo Cox. The powerful stories arising from these tragedies expose the layers of loss, and remind us that the lethal combination of hate and fear have no boundaries.
An earlier tragedy in 2016 touched us in JASS very personally and began our own period of mourning and mobilizing. On March 2, the murder of Berta Cáceres, Honduran indigenous leader, feminist and environmental activist, brought the human rights crisis and Honduran natural resource grab into headlines and the global advocacy agenda. The
inspiration of Berta’s courageous leadership and the persistent organizing power of her family and organization, the Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras (COPINH), have anchored and helped sustain an energetic mobilization that brings together indigenous peoples, environmentalists, human rights advocates, feminists, religious leaders, artists, and concerned citizens to demand justice.
The newly released report from Global Witness, On Dangerous Ground, marks 2015 as the deadliest year on record for activists defending land, forests and rivers against unregulated destructive industries such as mining, logging and hydropower, and 40% of the victims were from indigenous communities. In many contexts, corruption and
militarization are part of this lethal mix, as shown in today’s Guardian article which further implicates US military and security aid in the targeted attacks on environmental activists in Honduras.
The devastating loss of a powerful activist and close JASS friend has not only generated extraordinary collective action, but also real change. European investors have suspended their financing of the Agua Zarca dam, and last week, a bill to suspend security aid to Honduras until human rights violations have been addressed has been introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives.
Women like Berta Cáceres continue at the forefront, co-leading their communities to protect their environment, their cultural identity, and defending their own right to be heard, as demonstrated in the stories below. We face a long road to justice and accountability, but together, we’ve generated momentum in the right direction.
As always, we thank you for your support and solidarity. Together, We Rise!
Peace, Lisa VeneKlasen & the JASS community
By Daysi Flores
JASS Mesoamerica’s Honduras Coordinator gives a personal account of the impact of Berta Cáceres’ death on her life and activism: “I spoke to Berta Cáceres the day before she was murdered. We were talking about a workshop we were doing together on collective healing and power. The last
thing she said to me was, 'Take care, compita.' She called everyone compita or compa, short for compañera, a political term we use for a friend in the struggle. She didn’t care who you worked for or where you came from. When she said, 'This is a compa, compa,' it meant, 'This person is one of us, an ally.' By now the world knows about Berta Cáceres, an extraordinary feminist environmental activist and indigenous leader among the Lenca people in Honduras. She was a brilliant organizer and strategist, an inspiring teacher, and a true internacionalista. She recognized how the Lenca communities’ struggle to protect their land and rivers was a global
struggle." Read more
By Maggie Mapondera & Winnet Shamuyaria
"We’re activists and we’re defending rights,” says Aimée Espérance Matungulu Nduwa. She and other activists in Bandundu, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), are determined to protect their community from the heavy mining industry that is tearing it apart. Aimée works with the Rural Women for Development Collective to fight against the devastating impact of mining on her community and the environment. By destroying arable land without compensation or alternatives, the companies rob rural communities—particularly women—of their livelihoods and means of survival. Although the women face threats from the mining companies when they protest, they refuse to give up. “For us, it’s a vocation that we cannot abandon because of threats,” she explains. In an interview with JASS’ Maggie Mapondera and Winnet Shamuyarira, Aimée—a participant in the WoMin-JASS Feminist Movement Building School for women organizing against extractive industries—talks about her fight to protect communities, livelihoods, and human rights. Read more
Aimée Espérance Matungulu Nduwa (Right)
photo credit: Women's Resource Center
By Osang Langara
Extreme weather is displacing communities and putting emergency food aid at the center of women’s community organizing in the Philippines. From Dec. 2015 to Apr. 2016, more than 29,000 people were in need of food aid because of the drought in North Cotabato, Central Mindanao which provides over 40% of the country’s food supply. Yet, as communities struggle to meet basic needs, they must also battle for their basic right to speak out. After a severe 5-month drought, farmers and indigenous
peoples led a peaceful protest to demand the long-promised food aid, but the police responded violently—leaving two farmers dead and many more, including women injured or unlawfully arrested. Despite the temporary release of the protesters after posting bail, JASS and allies in the Philippines continue to demand for the government to provide food aid to support affected communities. Read more