House of healing: the Honduran sanctuary for female rights defenders | Women’s rights and gender equality

A milky-white and sky-blue stone hangs from a pink string round Ethels Correa’s neck, and occasionally she rubs it between her fingers.

“After I really feel anger, I seize this stone and I start to loosen up, as a result of they taught me how one can breathe, to loosen up the physique and to loosen up the thoughts,” she says. “I carry it with me all the time.”

Correa, 41, from the south coast of Honduras, is amongst a gaggle on a go to to La Siguata, a therapeutic centre for ladies like her who’re affected by trauma as a consequence of having stood up for human rights in the nation.

“After I got here right here, I felt outdated, wrinkled,” says Correa, a mom of 5 who has been concerned in land struggles in her house city, Zacate Grande, for twenty years. However now, when she seems to be in the mirror, she sees a special reflection. “I look stunning.”

The entrance to La Siguata, a healing centre for women in Honduras
The motto written above the entrance to La Siguata interprets as ‘You for me, me for you.’ {Photograph}: Jeff Ernst

Inaugurated earlier this 12 months, the 10-day retreat at La Siguata is an element of a tiny however rising motion led by the Mesoamerican Initiative of Women Human Rights Defenders, which funds this and one other centre in Oaxaca, Mexico, addressing the psychological well being points that include working in a single of the world’s most harmful areas for activists and ladies.

“We realised that there was tons of burnout and additionally robust impacts on ladies defenders because of this of structural violence, in addition to patriarchal violence that was very invisible and normalised,” says Ana María Hernández of Casa La Serena therapeutic centre in Oaxaca, Mexico, which opened in 2016 and has since welcomed a whole bunch of ladies from throughout the area.

“The very demanding dynamics of ladies defenders’ activism signifies that we don’t have time to get well our energies, to attach with our our bodies and wants. There’s an imbalance between giving and receiving,” provides Hernández.

Hernández and colleagues from the Consortium for Parliamentary Dialogue and Fairness in Oaxaca developed a holistic method to assist ladies overcome trauma and recharge, to allow them to proceed their work with renewed vigour.

Throughout their 10-day visits to the centres, ladies take part in actions from the inventive to the non secular, in teams and individually, and are given a personalised self-care plan to take house.

La Siguata – which suggests “the girl” in the Uto-Aztecan Nahuatl language – sits behind excessive partitions in the pine-covered mountains above the capital Tegucigalpa.

“Since coming into that gate, I felt related, I felt like a protected girl,” says Correa.

Solidarity is a guideline of the centre, encapsulated by a motto adopted from the Garifuna tradition of the nation’s north coast, painted over its entrance. It interprets as “You for me, me for you.”

A hammock and gardens at La Siguata women's healing centre in Honduras
The grounds at La Siguata are an area the place the ladies can loosen up and really feel ‘protected’. {Photograph}: Jeff Ernst

The grounds of flowers and fruit timber present a stark distinction to the concrete panorama of the metropolis under. The ladies can loosen up in hammocks or collect round a firepit surrounded by marigolds.

“This house teaches us to like nature, to really feel that power of the earth and the air, which I had not skilled,” says Sandra Laínez, 63, a member of the Community of Home Employees, who have been amongst the first group to go to La Siguata.

An altar with candles and flowers dedicated to murdered Honduran environmentalist Berta Cáceres
An altar with candles and flowers is devoted to murdered Honduran environmentalist Berta Cáceres. {Photograph}: Jeff Ernst

The centre has amenities for therapeutic massage, bathing and acupuncture. “I arrived with lots of physique ache and I didn’t really feel nicely,” says Correa, who has suffered lots of violence over her life, together with a blow to the head that she says she was fortunate to outlive. “If I’m sick, then I’m no good to the organisation.”

Inside the home are dormitories, a spacious kitchen the place cooking classes are held, and an altar with candles and flowers devoted to environmentalist Berta Cáceres, murdered after years of threats over her opposition to a dam mission. It supplies a poignant reminder of the hostility in the direction of activists in Honduras, a nation with the highest rate of femicide in Latin America.

“In the midst of this battle, we now have misplaced our sisters and our comrades,” says Rebeca Girón, of the Nationwide Community of Ladies Human Rights Defenders, who runs La Siguata.

The centre can be open to survivors of sexual abuse and households of disappeared migrants. In the close to future, it’s hoped that ladies from Nicaragua – the place the authorities has brutally repressed dissent, leading to greater than 300 deaths throughout the wave of protests in 2018 alone – will be capable to go to.

“We all know that these 10 days aren’t going to be the 10 days that can remodel their lives, with sudden adjustments from sooner or later to the subsequent,” says Girón. “However we do take into account that we open the approach.

“La Siguata represents the restoration of that inside flame of ardour, for eager to dwell once more and even to get pleasure from human rights work anew.”

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