1. Being a Woman Human Rights Defender
Being a woman human rights defender is a commitment for life. It implies breaking stereotypes defined by the patriarchal society in a context of structural inequalities, impunity, corruption, organised crime, misogyny, lgbt-phobia, hateful discourses, extractivism, neo-liberal policies and the closing of civic space. Being a woman defender means to confront double violence from day to day issues to our public actions, for being women and for defending women´s rights.
2. The impacts of violence, part one
Women defenders confront specific forms of violence with respect to men. Amongst the most common aggressions that women defenders in Mesoamerica experience are psychological threats, defamation, smear campaigns, threats, criminalisation, sexual violence or killings. All of these forms of violence against women defenders contain a strong gender component, using the body and the identity of women as a source to sow fear, intimidation and exploitation. This specific violence impacts the lives of women and those around them in different ways.
3. The impacts of the violence, part two
The psychosocial impacts of the violence against the bodies and lives of women defenders is a topic not easily addressed: blame or fears are not experienced in the same way my male defenders, intimidation and threats are not only played out on their bodies and lives, but also on those of their families, dependents and close networks. This is related to other factors such as the lack of recognition inside organisations or the normalisation of violence against women, amongst other forms of discrimination the combination of which puts the lives and health of the activists at risk.
4. The impacts of the violence, part three
Women human rights defenders run greater risk that male defenders of suffering sexual violence and other forms of violence based on their gender. It is also common that their children receive threats and aggressions due to the work they carry out. The specific gendered attacks include assault and threats, sexist insults, sexual violence in the context of repressive acts, gendered stereotypes in judicial processes and smear campaigns as well as attacks against those who defend women´s rights.
5. Different aspects of protection
We can't speak any more of individual or fragmented protection. We must advance towards a collective vision of protection with strategies that go further than security towards a holistic focus that puts selfcare, collective care and healing at the centre, that recuperates historic memory, that positions women defenders as active subjects in terms of security, incorporating practices to manage day to day risks inside organisations, movements and communities.
6. The feminist focus in protection
The feminist focus is a key tool to understand, identify and attend to the risks and specific violations that women defenders face. It also incorporates a critical analysis of these realities in the sphere of the rights they defend and the actors that interact with a goal of defining holistic protection measures for women defenders. Feminism positions the creation of networks, selfcare and empowerment as the foundation of the process of protection, with the construction of safe spaces and trust in order to confront isolation; to make the most out of resources, tools and collective knowledge; and to strengthen movements and organisations to become more sustainable from a position of sorority.
Exhaustion produced by human rights defense work is not normally viewed as a priority for defenders and their organisations. Women defenders tend to say they don´t have time or space to look after themselves, many of them work long days at work, exposing themselves to multiple impacts in terms of their physical, emotional, psychological, mental and spiritual health as well as their family relations and friendships. Selfcare is an individual and collective strategy that invites us to re-think our activism and modify patterns that tire us out so our organisations, struggles and movements can be more sustainable.
Women defenders put their bodies, minds and spirit into their work defending human rights. The continuity of this work implies healing wounds in order to sustain struggles. The cosmovisions of indigenous communities teach us keys to healing processes through ancestral practices. Being part of a whole, letting go, forgiving, complementing, recognising and harmonising are essential parts of healing historic violence that women have experienced. Healing as a daily practice is key for the survival and protection of women defenders.
9. Spirituality in Protection
It is a connection to nature that fills us with energy, helps us to be at peace and in harmony and to recognise each other through our spirituality.