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Nobel peace laureates lead delegation to Mexico, Guatemala and Honduras to bring attention to violence targeting women defenders of human rights

LatinaLista — A delegation of 20 women from the United States and Canada are on a 10-day mission to help amplify the voices of women in Mexico, Guatemala and Honduras known as las defensoras or human rights defenders who have been trying to draw global attention to the abuses women are suffering in the region.

Delegates and some defensoras join together in a show of unity.

The abuses can’t be ignored. In 2010, about 3,100 women were murdered in Mexico. Honduras records about 1,500 women killed between 2008 and 2011 and Guatemala has seen more than 5,000 women dying violently over the last 10 years.

Spearheaded by the Nobel Women’s Initiative and led by Nobel Peace Laureates Jody Williams from the United States and Rigoberta Menchú Tum of Guatemala, the delegation is comprised of representatives from human rights organizations, journalists, filmmakers, performing artists, businesswomen and indigenous activists. In each country, the delegation hears first-hand horror stories of sexual violence used against las defensoras to silence them and intimidate them from fighting back, heartbreaking stories from mothers about their disappeared sons and daughters, women speaking out about changes to the environment because of abusive practices and journalists under physical and emotional attack who are trying to alert the wider population to abuse of power and corruption.

Holding closed-door sessions, to protect the women brave enough to come forward with their stories, the delegation has heard from 50 women human rights defenders from eleven states in Mexico; fifty defensoras from Honduras, where a woman is killed every 16 hours, met with delegates to share their stories of being targeted with death threats, harassment, threats to their children, and sexual violence.

The delegation is winding up their fact-finding mission in Guatemala where delegates have been listening to stories of women who dared speak out against the impacts of mining on their communities which they say cause poisoning of the water, cracks in their homes, constant explosions and subjected to persecution for speaking out against it.

The trip ends on January 31 but it’s still possible to join the delegation — virtually. Delegates have been blogging, tweeting (#defensoras) and posting on Facebook a good record of real-time reactions and impressions to the stories and women they are hearing.

As one delegate blogged:

Stories. It all comes down to stories. While some of the women spoke so fast our interpreters could barely keep up, we got the message … hopefully the light we shine this week will help. But only if their stories are heard and retold.

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