[Brussels, 6 April 2016, Blogpost by Irene Rosales, EWL Policy & Campaigns Officer] All over the world, environmental and women’s rights organisations have raised jointly their voices to firmly condemn the dreadful murder of Berta Cáceres, Honduran human rights and environmental defender, in early March. Berta’s death has highlighted the continuing impunity for threats and attacks against all human rights defenders and the lack of laws for their protection. Strong reactions and mobilisations have taken place all over the world to demand the end of the culture of persecution, violence and impunity.
The European Women’s Lobby (EWL) has taken part in two demonstrations in Brussels and New York to pay tribute to Berta and all the courageous women activists who stand for human rights and for a feminist world and who, many times by doing so, put their lives at severe risk.
- Berta vive
Berta Caceres was the cofounder of the National Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras (Copinh) created to defend the rights of the Lenca communities against the growing threats posed to them. At great personal cost, Berta fought courageously during many years, despite the continuous life threats. In 2015, Berta won the 2015 Goldman Environmental Prize for defending the environment. Her speech during the award ceremony last year is highly inspiring and powerful in defense of the environment and human rights.
- quote berta
The Global Witness 2015 report identifies Honduras is one of the deadliest countries in the world for environmentalists. Two weeks after Berta Caceres’ death, another activist member of Copinh, Nelson García, was also killed after a violent eviction in a Lenca indigenous community. Berta Cáceres had denounced in several occasions the increased criminalisation of the civil human rights protests in the anti-terrorist and security laws in Honduras. This is a tendency that can be seen in many countries in the world, where paradoxically anti-terrorist laws and increase in security and defense budgets end up meaning a restriction and a loss of civil rights and liberties. In total, Global Witness registered the murder of 116 environmental activists last year in the world, three-quarters of them were killed in Central and South America. However, Berta denounced that many more activist and indigenous people had been killed with total impunity. The environmentalist organisation “Agua Viva- Amigos de la tierra” in Colombia, also denounced and condemned the murder of several community leaders in February this year, including Marciela Tombe, President of the Enviromentalist Campesino Association in Cauca region of Colombia.
Around the globe, women activists face even harder repression and criminalisation. As the feminist association Urgent Action fund for Latin America has denounced that women environmental activists are exposed to physical and verbal aggressions, murder attempts and threats, sexual violence and feminicide (See their report on the different forms of criminalisation of women environmental activist that was presented to the Inter-American Commission of Human Rigths in October 2015). In Honduras, one of the countries with the highest rates of feminicide in the world, misogyny against women and women human rights defenders is widespread. The high level of impunity and the lack of action and protection from the States need to be mentioned as direct causes behind the widespread violence against women in the region and in the world.
Berta Cáceres was also member of the Honduras’ National Network of Women Human Rights Defenders, who have denounced that women who stand to protect the land against petroleum extraction or mine construction projects face high violence and prosecution. (See here their petition in Spanish to demand the States and companies to end violence).
Berta Cáceres was both an outspoken feminist and firm environmental activist who saw her struggle as an indigenous woman as inseparable from the environmental cause. As Berta, many women are very active in ecological and environmental movements. Just as an example, see here the march lead by indigenous women in the Amazon to ask for climate justice on the International Women’s Day. The active participation of women in environmental decision making structures is also crucial to create effective policies to address one of the greatest challenges of our time: to save the planet.
Indeed, women’s rights and climate change are deeply interlinked: women are disproportionately affected by climate and environment degradation. Many women in the world are already facing the terrible consequences of climate change. Specially, when women’s rights are not protected (including women’s sexual and reproductive rights), women have fewer possibilities to explore their potential and act against climate change. Women are half of the world’s population: it is obvious that the planet won’t be saved without women’s leadership and full participation (See EWL Statement for COP21). This is also what Friends of the Earth came as a conclusion: their book ‘Why women will save the planet’ shows that women’s empowerment is essential to achieving environmental sustainability.
As a continuation of EWL’s work on women and the environment, the European Women’s Lobby will join forces with Friends of the Earth - Europe to held an event in Brussels in May, as a follow up of the EWL Webinar on women and the enviroment: what is the link?)
Berta Caceres is still alive. Her struggle continues in each of us as her fight and her cause are even more relevant today. She has multiplied.
#JusticeforBerta #Bertavive #BertaCacereslives
- Demonstration in Brussels
Demonstration in front of the Honduran Embassy, organized by Friends of the Earth, to condemn the murder and demand protection of human and environmental rights defenders. Impunity must stop.
- Demonstration New York CSW 2016
New York, a rally held outside the Honduran mission to the UN – 17 March 2016. Hundreds of activists joined Berta’s family in demanding justice for her murder, protection and security for all human rights defenders and environmental activists and the immediate halt to plans for the Agua Zarca Hydroelectric dam in Rio Blanco, Honduras.
Find more pictures of the demonstration in New York here.