“Today i attended a workshop on human rights and found myself sitting there mentally noting how many human rights femicide is violating; the right to life, the right to motherhood, the right to equality, the right to be heard,”.
During our training week in Ojojona, we were introduced to the concept of femicide. We were told about the situation that women face here in Honduras, how year by year the number of women being murdered is increasing, and how this is for the simple fact that they were women. As the facts and figures were portrayed to us, and the details of the situation were revealed, i remember thinking ‘how is this even happening”? I remember one of the last questions that was asked to our guest speaker, Maria Virginia Diaz, and it was something like, ‘do you think anything is going to change?’ Maria’s answer stayed with me until this day, and it is not until now that i have come to see her words in full force – “well all we can do is hope”.
This week has been an interesting week for my team. We have spent our time working alongside Delila, who works together with our partner organization COMUCAP, on preparations for a campaign promoting the fight against violence toward women. I was in my element as I cut round stencils of butterflies or ‘mariposas’, created invitations, and helped create a mural of information and tribute to the victims of violence against women. The theme for the whole event was butterflies – butterflies on the invitations, butterflies on the mural and butterflies on the leaflets. As I flicked through the information we were to assemble into a collage for the community, a statistic jumped out of the page at me and made me pause for a second, to tell Becky that violence against women has risen by over 200% in the last 5 years! Then I had to start researching after this… and it only got worse…
Femicide is defined as ‘the killing of women, female homicide, or the murder of a person based on the fact that she is a female’. In Latin America, Honduras takes first place in its rates of femicide. In 2010, 351 women were killed in a violent way - this year it is looking worse with 278 recorded already by the first half of 2012. The most worrying thing is that the majority of the cases aren’t even investigated and probably not even acknowledged at times. It is like it is becoming normalised. However that’s not all, it’s not just that violence is going up in general, the total number of murders in the country has actually gone done by 6% but the rate of femicides has gone up by 30%. This has been put down to the development of a ‘silence culture’ in which the women don’t speak up out of fear, the government do little to tackle the problem and it results in a wide spread message that ‘violence against women is acceptable and will go unpunished’ (Oxfam). Well it is definitely not acceptable to the women who live in this reality and this week has shown me how tangible this feeling is among the women of Marcala.
This Sunday was the day of the campaign. Me, Becky, Charlotte and Claire headed to the local school at around 10am to find a growing crowd of women congregating around a table to collect their information leaflets, admire the mural that we helped prepare and to take a seat ready for the presentation to come. As we looked around the room we saw so many familiar faces; women from the fields, from COMUCAP, even the mayor attended to come to support the fight against femicide. The room started to fill up and I started to feel that hope that Maria was talking about back in training week – complimented by the fact that there were men there supporting the cause too. It was clear that violence against women was something that is very real and present in the lives of the people here in Honduras and also that something needs to be done about it.
Oxfam sums this up nicely in a quote that states: “behind the numbers are real women, whose lives have been violently cut short by the most extreme form of gender-based violence – femicide”. I am starting to see this more clearly and take my hat off to every single woman who attended that campaign today.
I never got to find out what the butterflies stand for in the campaign…but thinking about it; i think they stand for new beginnings.
By: Sharna Allen
Photo: Mural - Alto Femicidio! - Mural created by ICS volunteers and Delila from COMUCAP for campaign against violence towards women.