IM-Defensoras Driving Group Meeting: Looking towards 2020

Twenty-one members of the IM-Defensoras Driving Group met from October 21-25 in Honduras to evaluate last year’s work and fortify our view of the future. We wove together actions from regional strategies and national networks to reinforce the impact that we’re making.

In the background, the sound of a waterfall. In the meeting hall, the heat of burning candles, the feel of the wind in the trees of the steamy Central American tropics, and conversations in many regional accents.

Cable to Earth

From the time we landed in Honduras, we began to work on an analysis with a clear, deep, well-documented context. It wasn’t new to any of us that this is a country ruled by power elites tied to drug trafficking and organized crime, but in the course of our work, analyses emerged regarding the threat of the  restriction of the use of social networks and the increasingly severe criminalization of defenders of the land.

We continued with a presentation on the Initiative’s current overview. Together, we identified strengths and limitations without neglecting possible obstacles and situational threats. That same night we screened the documentary film Seeds of Change Defenders in the midst of a celebration.

Looking towards the future

The following day we shared the progress made in different regional strategies: registry, communications, collective care and healing, advocacy, systematization and accompaniment of women defenders at risk. The analysis of our work that we have gradually been making has given us tools for continuing to discuss upcoming challenges.

Later on, the networks presented strategic priorities for 2020 by country (Honduras, Guatemala, El Salvador, Mexico and Nicaragua). Many joint strategies came to light, which include gaining coverage for women defenders in prestigious news media, strengthening networks in the territories, and building comprehensive feminist protection.

Strategies were also presented by area (registry, comunications, self-care, healing, advocacy and systematization). Network representatives raised many concerns and questions, such as: how to streamline and devote time to registry processes in the midst of such an intense crisis, how to optimize digital skills to heighten our visibility, and how to include women defenders on the ground in advocacy strategies.

A consensus was reached on dealing with issues that had not been considered the highest priorities, but turned out to be extremely important for the team. A discussion was held on the need to make strategic decisions regarding the work going on in Guatemala, the roles of new members of the Implementation Group, and the ways in which these support network projects, among others.

A warm embrace for Gilda

As a closing ritual we said goodbye to the great Gilda Rivera, who is leaving the Driving Group in order to engage more fully in the work with the Network of Women Defenders in Honduras. Gilda continues to set an example for feminists in her country and in the region. Not only is she the founder of the Center for Women’s Rights in Honduras, but has also been a human rights defender and active participant in coordinating popular social movements in Honduras for decades.

Above the clouds

We left with countless papers and digital archives full of sorrow and hope for Mesoamerica. We foresee threats of heightened repression in our countries; the need to respond to increasing demands for the accompaniment and protection of women defenders; an enormous potential for work in networks with community radio stations and digital campaigns; and the need to acknowledge the labor of the thousands of women working with us.

Our next steps include improving regional strategies and those of national networks based on our discussions in this valuable meeting. The future is loaded with new challenges but also with opportunities to do the work of sowing seeds throughout the region that will germinate separately, but will take root together beneath the ground and above the clouds.

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