We’re fed up!

invicativo_web1Latin America and the Caribbean have become increasingly dangerous for women and families. Women’s rights and freedoms are under serious threat, and the safety of women human rights defenders is particularly precarious. From 2009 to today, Colombia, Guatemala, Mexico and Honduras top the list of reported cases of violence against women human rights defenders and social activists.

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To put it mildly, women in the region are fed up. So fed up that grantee partner, Iniciativa Mesoamericana de Defensoras de Derechos Humanos decided to take on the most powerful perpetrators in society, with little support and few alliances. They set an ambitious goal: to map the reality of women’s rights defenders in Mesoamerica and to offer mechanisms to protect the lives of those women in the struggle for social justice and equality.

The 50 plus women activists involved in the project discovered political threats and sexual violence are used across the region to silence women.

United and representing diverse social movements including: feminist, labor unions, rural, peasant and LBTQ communities, these women activists give greater visibility to women’s resistance. Invaluable to the women’s movement, they strategize across the region to demand their rights and fundamental freedoms.

 

Bold and Defiant

blueveins_web“We have the responsibility as well as the ability to create a world from which injustice, inequity, inequality and oppression are gradually eliminated,” says Blue Veins, a Global Fund for Women grantee in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, Pakistan.

This mission statement is bold, even defiant given the context of Blue Veins’ work. Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KPK) province – already a stronghold for traditional male-dominated cultures and values - has become increasingly associated with sectarian violence, suicide bombings, and US drone attacks. Moreover, the region is facing the second year of devastating floods that have left millions of families without homes, livelihoods and security. This includes refugee families from Afghanistan fleeing 30 years of military conflicts in their home country.

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Yet, Blue Veins never shies away from a challenge. Working with women in the community, the group successfully advocated for the creation of a Women’s Desk at the Provincial Disaster Management Authority in June 2011 to respond directly to the concerns of women impacted by the floods, particularly sexual violence. Before the Women’s Desk was established, there was a limited capacity to provide services to pregnant women and survivors of gender-based violence in flood-affected areas. Now women in KPK can be sure they won’t be forgotten. Blue Veins also ensures their critical leadership in building peace in their communities, and advocating for gender justice nationally.

 

Preserving Women’s Force

fuerza_web1For 500 years, the Wayuu indigenous people of Colombia have resisted the consequences of colonization and imperialism. Today, they have multiple enemies: state security forces, army-backed paramilitaries, guerrilla groups and multinational corporations. All are colluding to displace the Wayuu people so they can extract oil, natural gas and other vital resources from their land.

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What would be the best thing about living in a world without violence?


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In the face of community members being threatened and killed, Fuerza de Mujeres Wayuu (Wayuu Women’s Force) are courageously organizing women and youth in their indigenous community to resist, fight for survival and the preservation of their rich and bio-diverse environment.

Wayuu women have formed extensive alliances with other women and indigenous groups, who advocate for their inclusion in Colombia’s peace building process. Fuerza de Mujeres built a community center to bring indigenous women together. The group also documents women’s testimonies about the violation of their human rights in the context of the ongoing conflict, which they have submitted to the UN and Colombian Constitutional Court. Through their actions for peace, Fuerza de Mujeres are reigniting hope in those who have for too long endured violence.

 

Ask Questions, Incite Peace

newprofile_web1“What to do when the country I live in totally loses its compass… when the regime that collects my taxes uses them to deploy its high-tech military, armed to the teeth, against activists sailing to oppose a criminal siege?” asks Rela Mezali of New Profile, referring to the 2010 Israeli raid on the aid flotilla heading to Gaza.

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What would be the best thing about living in a world without violence?


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In response, the women of New Profile are trying to chart a more humane Israeli society by raising awareness of the ways Israel has grown increasingly militarized. They do this by providing legal and moral support to Israeli youth who are conscientious objectors to mandatory military service. The space New Profile provides for Israel’s youth to question militarism is rare since many cannot raise those issues in school or at home. They also have a traveling photo exhibit that takes a critical look at the militaristic contents in education, culture and media that normalize violence, particularly violence against women.

In April of 2009, the home offices of New Profile activists were raided and their computers seized. They were also under investigation for “inciting military deserters," but that case was closed due to lack of evidence. Yet, they remain fearless and focused on challenging the norm and pushing for a new paradigm for peace in Israel and Palestine.

 

Building a Safe Haven

uphil_web1The Bangsomoro Human Wellness Center in southern Philippines stands tall amid crossfire between insurgent and state armies engaged in one of the longest running conflicts in Asia. Founded by the United Youth of Philippines – Women, Inc (UnYPhil-Women), this crisis center represents a “safe haven, an empowering place for women and girls” impacted daily by a conflict that has killed more than 150,000 people and displaced two million more.

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What would be the best thing about living in a world without violence?


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Earlier this year, male representatives from insurgent groups, state military, and local government put generations of hostilities aside to come together to celebrate the opening of the Center with UnYPhil members and staff earlier this year. In a legacy of conflict, a remarkable feat!

Since 2007, the Global Fund has supported UnYPhil’s tireless work to organize conflict resolution trainings, livelihood programs, and legal guidance for women and children survivors of violence. Before the Center, UnYPhil says communities lacked the support structures and physical safety to address pressing issues like displacement, rape and trafficking. This center is the first of its kind in Maguindinao province, providing a secure venue for UnYPhil to continue its exceptional work.

 
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