“Women have been resisting, defending our lives, our bodies, our territories, our culture, our spirituality, our autonomy because we desire not only territorial autonomy and autonomy for this country, we want autonomy for our bodies, for individuals, for the sovereignty of the body of people. “
Berta Cáceres Flores is an activist from Honduras. A leader among campesino, indigenous, and popular movements in Mesoamerica, Berta is an internationally known voice in human rights and economic justice issues. Berta is a co-founder and leader of COPINH, the Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras. She has also co-founded the Convergence of Movements of Peoples of the Americas (COMPA), the Mesoamerican Forum, and the Forum on Dams and Rivers --all region-wide coalitions of social movements.
Berta comes from the Lenca people, an ancient people who inhabited southwest and central Honduras and a large part of El Salvador. Strongly dedicated to the earth, the Lenca have been in a process of resistance for more than 500 years to colonialism and the resulting aggressiveness, militarism, transnationalization, privatization, patriarchy and racism.
“We’re seeing a process of militarization,” Berta says. “They’re recruiting our young people because it’s the only way to get a job without having to migrate. There’s harassment, death threats to our members, sexual abuse of women members of the organization … They have total impunity to abuse women, especially poor women, indigenous women and women of African descent.”
Berta is involved in promoting participatory and collective debate in Honduras, including the formation of a new, representative, and just constitution for Honduras that incorporates women’s rights. Re-establishing the country is necessary, according to Berta due to deep corruption. “Everybody believes that in Honduras the situation is normal and that is not the truth. That is a lie,” she says. “Here there is human rights violations, there is murder, there is repression, there is kidnapping, there is an advancement of a project to blatantly plunder.”
Berta and members of the COPINH have personally been affected by this militarization and corruption, facing attacks and death threats. “We have had co-workers violently sexually harassed and raped,” she says. Sexual violence has been used as a military tool in Honduras.
Berta says her work for justice in Honduras is part of a larger, global struggle. “We think that this fight that we see in the community here, in this locale, in this department is not isolated. It is a global fight and it is a global problem. It is a problem in this continent not only faced by us but by all people fighting against colonialism and that have a sense of justice and freedom.”
Do you speak Spanish? If so, watch Berta speak about her work in her own words.
Read the English transcripts of the video here.
From Survivors to Defenders: Women Confronting Violence in Mexico, Honduras and Guatemala, Nobel Women’s Initiative 2012 in English or Spanish
Honduran feminists in resistance, Just Associates (JASS)
Berta Cáceres: "We only have one option. It is to struggle. It is to continue the resistance. It is to march towards the re-founding of the country.", Honduras Resists, Honduras Resiste, 7 Nov 2009.
A whirlwind - 48 hours in Honduras: Jody Williams, Nobel Women's Initiative, 30 Jan 2012.
End "War on Women" in Mexico, Honduras and Guatemala: Nobel Laureates, Nobel Women's Initiative, 29 Feb 2012.
Honduras truth commission seeks post-coup justice, reparations, the Associated Press, 3 Oct 2012.