In Central America, insecurity and violence have been on the rise in recent years. In this context, women’s rights are increasingly at risk. In Honduras alone, gender-based violence is the second highest cause of death for women of reproductive age. In Mexico and Guatemala, the levels of violence against women continue to escalate.
Moreover, women human rights defenders (WHRDs) face increasing difficulties to carry out their work. To counter this crisis, several organisations joined efforts between 2009 and 2010 and launched the Mesoamerican Women Human Rights Defenders Initiative (IMD). The initiative seeks to provide WHRDs with alternatives for their own protection, so that they continue their work in defence of human rights. It also advocates
The organizations behind IMD are Just Associates, Unidad de Protección a Defensoras y Defensores de Derechos Humanos (UDEFEGUA) — PI’s partner organisation in Guatemala), La Colectiva Feminista par al Desarrollo Local (El Salvador), Association for Women’s Rights in Development (AWID), Consorcio para el Diálogo Parlementario y la Equidad, Oaxaca (Mexico) and the Fondo Centroamericano de Mujeres – FCAM (Nicaragua).
IMD led to the creation of several national networks of women’s defenders. In Guatemala, UDEFEGUA took the responsibility to launch the country’s network. The network includes about 45 WHRDs from trade unions, social movements, as well as human rights and development national and international NGOs. Until mid-2012, Aj Noj, PI’s and Udefegua’s joint Protection Desk, provided key initial support in its management.
Since July 2012, the network is being run by a specific department of UDEFEGUA while Aj Noj continues to provide technical support (e.g. workshops on protection strategies with a gender-based approach, quarterly meetings).
What’s the role of the Mesoamerican Women Human Rights Defenders Initiative ?
It contributes to:
Create alternatives for self-protection and security to address the violence faced by women human rights defenders (WHRDs), through mobilisation of resources and organization of capacity-building
Encourage dialogue, coordination and joint action between WHRDs from different social movements, both at a national and regional levels, in order to promote and strengthen collective protective actions.
Foster the contribution of women to human rights.
Generate gender-based analysis of the violence faced by WHRDs in the region.
Handle cases of violence against WHRDs in all of the countries of the region, based on a strategy involving regional and international actions.
Beyond creating networks of WHRDs, the Mesoamerican Women Human Rights Defenders Initiative has also supported complaints against numerous aggressions and requested protection measures to the Inter-American Commission for Human Rights. Moreover, IMD has also facilitated the relocation of women defenders at risk and led consultations on the specific needs of women defenders.