Author: Aluna Acompañamiento Psicosocial
From a psychosocial perspective it is fundamental to contextualise the impacts that women defenders experience within a scenario of socio-political and patriarchal violence, due to the fact that their work confronts dominant power structures. Touching the interests of actors such as the State, organised crime and private national and international companies, women defenders receive threats, confront serious acts of criminalisation and are intimidated and sometimes victims of sexual torture, putting their lives at risk.
As well as the stress and frustration caused by structural impunity, women defenders can´t always count on fair working conditions and often they have heavy workloads and are stigmatised for the work they do, often by their own male colleagues, for defying gender stereotypes.
In this context, women defenders experience different types of psychosocial impacts, directly on their bodies but also within their families and organisations. Despite the scale of the impacts that they experience, it is worth mentioning that the that the majority of women defenders manage to convert their experiences into positive forces and use diverse mechanisms to affront the violence they face – physical, emotional, spiritual, political and economic mechanisms – allowing them to create conditions to be able to continue to carry out their work.
One of the main psychosocial impacts is fear, which affects defenders on personal and collective levels. As a strategy for social control, fear seeks to produce mistrust, often paralysis, and through this, inhibit processes of participation. In order to affront it, women defenders elaborate subjective processes and build physical and emotional protection strategies.
When conflicts are sparked within the family or in organisations, that effect the affective, social and political bonds and ties; women defenders rebuild relationships and generate solidarity processes that allow them to pass through these moments of pain, anxiety and sadness and build processes that reconstruct life, building paths of creativity, politicisation and hope in their lives.