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Women Leading the Way for Reform in Central America

August 2015

The Women’s Commission of the Via Campesina has a poster of Margarita Murillo. A family farmer and member of the Women’s Commission, Margarita was killed last year after many years of receiving death threats for her leadership in defending land rights.

While visiting Honduras on our site visit, we were able to observe as members of the Women’s Commission did some incredibly deep power analysis and advocacy planning for their Campaign to End Violence Against Women in Central America—a program that Grassroots and our donors invest in. The Women’s Commission wants to stop the femicide—the systematic, targeted killing of women, which has claimed the lives of more than 2,000 women, including Margarita Murillo, in Honduras during the last five years.

The women talked about how the military, government and narco-traffickers use sexual assaults and threatening of their children are weapons. One activist leader had to send all four of her children to other countries to protect them.

In what amounts to widespread “criminalization” of female activists, more than 800 small-scale female farmers in Honduras are currently charged with crimes they didn’t commit—most are either imprisoned or on probation where they are required to travel long distances to report every week to authorities.

By the end of our day with the Women’s Commission, the women leaders developed a solid plan to tackle violence against women, struggle for land rights, and increase political participation, reproductive health and development of the organization. I am grateful to our donors who made it possible for Grassroots to support this critical campaign and the fierce women who lead it despite harsh repression.

After we left, I continued to think about the words Esperanza Cardona of the Women’s Commission said on her visit to the US in April: “Con la mujer en la casa, la reforma agria no avanza.” (“With the women at home, agrarian reform will not advance.”) These women have not only stepped out of the house, but marched on to lead the broader movement for land rights and liberation.

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