In turbulent times, IM-Defensoras is taking a time-out to heal and continue caring for ourselves.

December 1, 2021

The Mesoamerican Initiative of Women Human Rights Defenders (IM-Defensoras), our national networks and articulations, and our regional teams and structures, have decided to take a breath, open spaces to heal ourselves, to renew our energies, and to honor the commitment we took on more than 11 years ago: to place care at the center of our political action.

In the midst of a vicious violence that has only intensified in Mesoamerica, working for the protection of women human rights defenders at risk, for the safety and well-being of our sisters in struggle, of the communities and organizations that defend our peoples from racist and patriarchal capitalism, is an arduous task that gives no truce nor respite.

IM-Defensoras works 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, responding to emergencies and calls from hundreds of sister defenders, organizations, and communities that are being attacked. Those who have to uproot themselves and flee for their lives, who are imprisoned, who suffer impoverishment and dispossession in their own lives. Women defenders slandered with sexist insults and threats on social media, sexually harassed and attacked even within their own families and organizations. Sister defenders who are exhausted from facing violence day after day, who often have no space to take care of their own health and the need for rest.

With the refuge and organizational infrastructure provided by the national networks and regional structures that we created, we embody support for our sister defenders in times of fear and uncertainty, we give each other strength, and together we build Feminist Holistic Protection strategies. [1]

All this work has increased since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic – as we explained in our assessment “The Crisis Was Already Here” – and at many times we reached the limits of our strength. The year 2021 has been particularly challenging:

  • We are grieving and dealing with the multiple impacts caused by the loss of close people and comrades who are part of our teams and networks, due to COVID and other serious health situations.
  • Many sisters in our teams and/or their families were infected with the virus, some faced serious health consequences, and others are facing the impact of the exhaustion and burn-out from these two years responding to emergencies with all the restrictions that confinement and other measures have meant.
  • On top of this, there is a greater demand for protection and accompaniment of our sister defenders due to a context of authoritarianism and violence that persists and worsens, a violence that has already affected the teams in some of the networks that make up IM-Defensoras.

Given this reality, and conscious that our woven fabrics are strong but are at risk if we do not care for them, we decided we would dedicate more time for our own care, protection, and internal cohesion – while continuing to respond to emergencies and accompany women defenders at risk and their collectives.

We decided that the celebration of our more than 11 years together will begin with an internal process of acknowledging and intensifying acts of rest and addressing our own needs for care, for spaces to honor our history, to analyze the context, and to accompany each other in the grief that we are experiencing.

This is why perhaps our absence has been noted in some spaces, why we had to say no to numerous invitations. It has not been easy; as women defenders, as women, we also live the guilt and difficulties in setting boundaries. However, we are clear that this is the only way that our work will be possible.

During these months that are left before the year ends, we ask for your patience and understanding, as well as for your embrace and encouragement to continue making care a political option that challenges the system and builds a better world.




[1] Feminist Holistic Protection is a political and strategic frame in permanent construction that places the care of women defenders, their communities and organizations at the center of political action, in order to make our struggles and visions of change possible in a context of constant violence and repression. From a feminist and intersectional perspective on risk and violence, and women defenders’ own wisdoms and needs, we strengthen our collective capacities for protection through networks and articulations that bring together sister defenders from different social movements and are the basis for implementing a broad range of strategies: accompanying women defenders at risk (their families and organizations), rest and respite houses, healing processes, safe relocation, active political support, registry of attacks, resource mobilization, among others.