These remarks from Aura Lolita Chávez Guerra, (woman land and environmental rights defenders from Guatemala) are opening the ProtectDefenders.eu 2020 Annual Report.
May the sun rises, may it brighten, may the dawn come, may we peoples have peace!
We are connected in a network and in all possible worlds! We are life, energy, water, air, fire, we are earth. I write from these mountains that embrace us every day, recognizing that writing does good for women defenders, deeply linked to the commitment to continue weaving strength, dignity, justice, freedom, and peace in the worlds. It is important to reinvent ourselves in our surroundings because that is what we are called upon by biodiversity, by the land, and by the cosmos. Because WE ARE! Respecting and honoring the ancestral expressions of the communities woven in the territories for millennia. What is our call, then? We call to protect ourselves, take care of ourselves, love ourselves to heal with the true medicine that is in our territory, in our body… to heal from our very essence, from our cosmic consciousness.
In embracing the work and mission of ProtectDefenders.eu, it is important to recognize that this 2020 report gives an overview of where women human rights defenders find ourselves and how difficult this path is for us. The pandemic situation shows more clearly what we have been shouting from the territories we defend: We are in a civilizational crisis! The repressive states confined us by force of arms, they silenced us by force of control, but the extractive companies were not confined and the multinationals came out with juicy profits. It has been shown that, for oppressive systems, there are lives that matter and lives that do not matter, and there are lives that make the powers uncomfortable! Those lives are ours, those of human rights defenders.
For us, the confinement meant a regression in the exercise of our rights as women and as defenders, mainly in territories in dispute by extractive companies. In the name of safety and health, many cases of abuse were committed: violence against women in different spheres, murders, torture, rapes, forced pregnancies increased in Abya Yala (America) and throughout the world, and it has increased the burden of work on women, sustaining aspects of economic submission.
We need to transcend and we will do so with new paradigms, with feminist emancipatory paths, with the liberation of the original peoples’ territories, with the redistribution of collective assets, with protection communities
We defenders, we who walk in the mountains, we healers, weavers, guardians, we have very clear challenges. Isolating ourselves and individualizing ourselves is not the way. It is necessary to recognize the failures of the systems, and improving the same systems is not the worthy answer. We need to transcend and we will do so with new paradigms, with feminist emancipatory paths, with the liberation of the original peoples’ territories, with the redistribution of collective assets, with protection communities, where LGTBIQ communities can exercise their free determinations and where humanity recognizes the great errors of systems that were imposed.
There remain great challenges for humanity: we must claim that we continue to exercise the right to defend rights, that we have not renounced it despite having gone through genocide and femicides. Zero-tolerance policies for acts of violence, threats, intimidation, and murders against human rights defenders need to be expressed in practice, not on paper. We urgently need international platforms to be activated so that we can continue to make our demands heard. I celebrate ProtectDefenders.eu, recognizing its work to give strength and immediate response to protection initiatives and networks led by women and communities in hostile contexts of higher risk, and I advocate that it continue to update its protocols and procedures to continue responding to the new pandemic contexts, in those places with the greatest presence of military personnel with weapons of massive repression, and in territories where States are increasing budgets for actions against mobilizations of peoples.
For the opening of the ProtectDefenders.eu annual report, I will leave the sacred words from my Mayan ancestors: May the sun rises, may it brighten, may the dawn come, may we peoples have peace!