JASS Mesoamerica

Read the 6th installment of our Making Change Happen series, Rethinking Protection, Power, and Movements: Lessons from Women Human Rights Defenders in Mesoamerica, which brings a feminist and social movement perspective to the emerging conversations about the shifting dynamics of power and protection.
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This academic article, published on Sur, contextualizes and analyzes women-led resistance to patriarchy, capitalism, and racism in Central America. In the shadow of Central America's historical violence, JASS authors Ardon and Flores look to feminists and indigenous women as the front line defenders of human rights for themselves, their communities, and the world. Read more to see how women have organized against backlash, repression, and systematic violence, creating an alternative model for survival in the face of an ever-changing landscape.
Throughout the world, many feminists and other women activists working for social justice or gender equality are reluctant to recognize themselves as human rights defenders either because they believe their work goes beyond the human rights framework; because they feel that by naming themselves as such, their political identity as feminists becomes blurred; because they think that the term is too focussed on the law or too dangerous in their particular contexts; because they fear retaliations by the State or other groups; or simply because the term does not appeal to them or sometimes  beca
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Violence against women activists continues to rise. Unfortunately, despite considerable effort, responses to this violence are coming up short. Given the urgency of the situation, JASS and allies are questioning the underlying assumptions guiding activist safety, and bringing a feminist and movement building perspective to rethinking the approach.
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Italia Mendez refuses to be known the rest of her life as “one of the Atenco victims”. So instead she has become an outspoken global crusader against sexual torture by the state. In May of 2006, Mexican police rounded up Italia and more than two hundred other protestors in a violent crackdown in the village of Atenco, Mexico State. They were taken into custody and driven more than 150 kilometers (about 93 miles) to a state prison. During the hellish ride, the police sexually tortured the 47 women. The torture continued even after arriving at the prison.
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I spoke to Berta Cáceres the day she was murdered. I never imagined that later this year I would be in a demonstration along with almost a thousand women in Honduras asking for justice for her murder. Sometimes, I still can hear her voice.
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“Protection of women defenders must be based on recognizing their existence, but also their contribution to creating better societies,” said a participant during a forum with the UN Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights Defenders, Michel Forst who visited Central American countries to hear directly from defenders about the challenges and risks they face.
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The daughter of slain Honduran indigenous rights activist Berta Cáceres called Friday for an immediate halt to the controversial dam project which the renowned human rights leader had mounted a decade long fight to stop.
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We are deeply saddened and outraged by the assassination of Honduran activist—our sister and friend—Berta Cáceres, Coordinator of COPINH. Read JASS' official statement.
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