“I always say that the women, we are the ones in front in the protests; the men come behind. I know women have played a central role in all the organizations and in all the social movements, but somehow the women are not present in the written history. [Men] do not want to write our story, but we’ll learn to write...”
Felicitas is an indigenous Me’phaa woman and human rights defender from Guerrero, Mexico. She is one of the two women who serve as leaders in the Regional Coordinator of Community Authorities – Community Police (CRAC - PC) from the Costa-Montaña region in Guerrero. The CRAC-PC is a community system of justice and security created by the Me’phaa and Na Savi indigenous communities 17 years ago, as an alternative to the existing security system and based on the indigenous people’s right to autonomy and self-determination.
The CRAC-PC is proof that any successful security policy must have proximity to the people, must aim to strengthen the social tissue, and must build its legitimacy in honesty and accountability. Felicitas has been Regional Coordinator in different capacities for 5 years. Together with the other Regional Coordinators she is responsible for administering justice and supervising the processes of re-education, on which the system is based.
Felicitas is also founder and an active member of the Guerrero Coordinator of Indigenous and African-descendent Women. The organization focuses most of its actions on addressing maternal mortality, as Guerrero is the state with the highest rates in Mexico. In this context, the women created a women’s health house based in Ometepec which serves 5 municipalities in the region. They focus on training midwifes, diagnosing the situation of women in the region and giving workshops to all interested women on human and women’s rights.
Felicitas has also help found some new commissions in the CRAC-PC in order to open new opportunities - such as promoting the production of traditional medicine and commercializing their natural products. Their dream is to have an organization of women within of the CRAC-PC, a dream they are working on.
Despite being recognized under local legislation – such as the Law 701, on Recognizing the Rights and Culture of Indigenous peoples and communities in the state of Guerrero– the CRAC-PC continues to be threatened, harassed, prosecuted with the criminalization of its leaders. For Felicitas this has been a big challenge, but she does it because she wants change so that her daughter and grandchildren can enjoy something different than what the indigenous peoples of Guerrero suffer today.
For Felicitas there is much work to do ahead within the communities, but this is a challenge in a context where generalized violence increases and where more and more indigenous communities turn to the CRAC-PC as an alternative and self-determination. “I’m young, so I cannot be tired because there is a lot more to do in the communities and within the CRAC-PC for women to access community making-decision positions.”
Report From Survivors to Defenders: Women Confronting Violence in Mexico, Honduras and Guatemala, Nobel Women’s Initiative 2012
Paying the price – Migrar o Morir (English), Tlachinollan, 17 Nov 2012.