During the past weeks, we have been involved in some Women’s day celebrations in the local community. We began by making decorations for our partner organisation’s celebration at their Marcala office, and later by accompanying them to a neighbouring rural community, Las Cabañas, to join in the further celebrations. In Las Cabañas, Women’s Day was marked by a celebration in the town hall with inspirational talks given by local figureheads, encouraging women to improve their lives and become more active in social and political spheres. Our partner organisation, COMUCAP, aims to provide women and their families with emotional support and access to basic services. The organisation also aims to encourage women to be more financially independent and self-confident by sharing their knowledge of farming and sustainable development. The women of COMUCAP reject violence on every level and are committed to empowering women and promoting social change.
The women’s day event in Las Cabañas, hosted families and women of all ages from the community and and other nearby communities. Due to Progressio’s work in Marcala most of it’s residents are now used to seeing white faces, however when we arrived in Las Cabañas many of the women from the rural communities were seeing people from the West for the first time, outside of the TV screen. They were all polite and inquisitive, bringing their children up to see us, saying hello and standing close so they could listen to us talk in English. We were told in a sombre tone, that during this year’s Women’s Day celebrations there would be less singing and dancing; we had been told this was common place in previous years. It became apparent that a tragedy had befallen the community, that a local woman had recently passed away.
Among the speakers was the Mayor of Las Cabañas, whom we had met on the morning of our first day of Field Work. He had welcomed us to the community and thanked us for our help, planting trees to tackle the risks that come with deforestation. The Mayor was one of the few men at the event, and due to the status divide in Honduras between men and women, his passion for women’s rights was initially surprising. He outlined the indispensable role women play in society, as caregiver and household organiser, often as sole provider for the family and in cases where the husband provides, responsibility for managing limited resources and ensuring the sustainable economic safety of the family. He urged the women to identify their true potential and invest in both their future and the future of their children. He recognised the selflessness of women and encouraged them to find their own happiness outside their traditional role, seeking training and education, playing an active role in society and sharing ideas and goals. The Mayor told us that Women’s Rights is currently an emerging theme, both for the Honduran Government and the rest of the world, a global investment in women and increasing their opportunities and identifying their potential.
Doña Edith, COMUCAP’s founding member, was also among those speaking at Cabanas. Her role as the founder of COMUCAP; an organisation dedicated to the success, confidence and independence of all women, made hers a motivational and moving speech. Doña Edith kicked off by acknowledging and celebrating women’s political recognition as full citizens, which marked the creation of Honduras’s women’s day in 1995. Although the treatment and opportunities for women in Honduras at this time is far from perfect, and on ground level they still often remain unequal to men, Edith reminded the women of the progress they’d made. Before women’s recognition in 1995, they were marginalized, discriminated against and were unable to act independently as they lacked official documents. She compared this to the current situation, where the political recognition of women, paired with some practical social shift, allows them to be complete active citizens with a right to personal growth, education and opportunities. She also shared her ambition with her listeners, although there are political and social spaces and roles that women do not yet occupy, they are quickly approaching these areas, “We are bridging the gap.”
However land ownership still remains a problem especially for the rural women present at Women’s Day. Although Honduran women have equal rights regarding land ownership in under statutory law, in practice these rights are not effective and only 24% of women are listed as land owners. COMUCAP highlight this issue as one they are dedicated to tackling. They have collective farms for the women who work with them and also aim for women to be able to buy their own plots of land from the organisation. Doña Edith told the women they must be “Luchadoras” – women who would stand up and fight for themselves. She said they must go to their municipalities to support each other, share ideas and be the promoters of change for themselves and their families. The women have a role as educators, both at home and in the outside world, inspiring children and their peers to learn and think.
Women’s Day in Honduras, celebrates a huge achievement of political recognition in the eyes of the law and can also be used as a marker for future progress and opportunities for women in many areas of their lives. The women attending showed a strong sense of united passion for the issues mentioned. Doña Edith concluded by outlining the importance of women ‘using their vote.’ There are currently government projects in place in Honduras to improve the lives of women and young people, hopefully working towards a brighter and more accessible future. Women playing an increased role in decision making, especially on issues that affect them, will greatly help them improve their standing in education, the workplace and their lives at home. The women of Honduras have and continue achieve great successes which will have a lasting impact for the future of Honduras. I hope for the women of Honduras, that Women’s Day over the coming years will feel the support of more and more men; attending with their wives, daughters, mothers, or for their local people, showing they agree with social equality for women and improving the lives of all.