This year Grassroots International is dedicating International Women’s Day – March 8 – to Berta Cáceres, courageous indigenous Lenca leader and coordinator of the Civic Council of Indigenous People’s Organizations in Honduras (COPINH).
Just days ago we learned that Berta was assassinated in her home. A leader in the Lenca community, Berta helped organize a powerful movement to stop the construction of the Agua Zarca dam and to protect the Gualcarque river basin. For more than a year the Lenca people maintained a human blockade to stop trucks from entering the dam construction site and thus halted its construction. Despite ongoing threats against her life (and after the murder of fellow leader of COPINH Tomás García in 2013), Berta remained steadfast in her commitment to protect Mother Earth and her community.
Honduras is one of the most violent countries in the world. US interventions have contributed to increased militarization and destabilization of democracy in the country. Since the 2009 US-backed coup that forced the democratically elected president out of office, crime and homicide have risen sharply – especially against women, indigenous peoples and human rights defenders.
In 2015 Berta won the Goldman Environmental Prize (and it’s worth watching the video prepared for the occasion which tells her story). In her acceptance speech she said, “We must shake our conscience free of the rapacious capitalism, racism and patriarchy that will only assure our own self-destruction. The Gualcarque River has called upon us, as have other gravely threatened rivers. We must answer their call. Our Mother Earth – militarized, fenced-in, poisoned, a place where basic rights are systematically violated – demands that we take action.”
In Berta’s memory, this International Women’s Day we join with the United State chapter of the World March of Women in celebrating the struggle, resilience and accomplishments of women around the world.
The World March of Women is an international feminist action movement that connects grassroots groups from around the world to work against all forms of gender inequality and discrimination. Grassroots Global Justice Alliance (of which Grassroots International is a member) joined the World March of Women last year, making the US the 65th country/territory represented in the World March of Women.
Women are at the forefront of the struggle for climate justice, food sovereignty and the protection of our planet; and women human rights defenders like Berta are putting their lives on the line every day. Today we celebrate their courage and stand with them in struggle.