Indigenous & Afro-Honduran women: Autonomy & an end to violence against us

Final Declaration of Constituent Assembly Self-Organized by Indigenous & Afro-Honduran Women

July 18, 2011

By Margaret Thompson, ESCRIBANA

From the rhythmic beat of powerful drums and ancient spiritual songs that echoed through the sacred ruins of the Mayan Chortí in Copan in western Honduras, the three-day event ended with hundreds of indigenous and Afro- Honduran women demanding autonomy and an end to the colonization of their lands, their bodies, their lives, and ways of doing politics.

The Final Declaration of Copán Galel of the Self-Organized Constituent Assembly of Indigenous and Afro-Honduran women denounced the “violence, repression and domination of women operating through capitalism, patriarchy and racism,” said Berta Caceres, coordinator the Civic Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras (COPINH), in an interview with Escribana.

Caceres was also one of the organizers of the Assembly, which took place July 11 to 13, 2011 in Copan Ruinas, Honduras. The Assembly involved an intensive dialogue on the realities of life of the 300 participating women whose cultures, lands, natural resources and the country have been under siege that intensified since the military coup in June 2009.

Since then, the government, the powerful elites and transnational corporations have been using the “Shock Doctrine” (Naomi Klein) to promote a rapid re-engineering of business, economic policies and all policies before people have opportunity to react. (

For Honduras, this has meant immediate and aggressive plans for mass-tourism projects, mega-projects such as hydroelectric dams and the expansion of mining, agribusiness and forestry, all involving the confiscation of indigenous and Afro lands.

In the Final Declaration, the women conclude that their shared realities include “the impoverishment and dispossession of our lands that nourish and sustain our lifestyles.”

They denounce the privatization of water, forests and land being systematically and violently usurped by transnational oligarchies and through mechanisms such as international banking organizations and free trade.

“We also denounce the militarization and repression under the current system which perpetuates the coup along with the occupation of gringo troops.” The presence of the U.S. military is growing with two new bases under construction since the coup, besides the Palmerola Air Base in Soto Cano. The new bases are in the Bay Islands and the Department of Gracias a Dios on the border with Nicaragua.

The women said they have long held a worldview and way of life under a different paradigm: “We understand that our ways of seeing and experiencing the world, our relationship with the land and natural resources, our spirituality and relationships with others, and our [processes of] thought and creativity are different. ”

They say in the Final Declaration that these differences have amassed a vast wealth of ancient knowledge and memory, especially from women, and also “of great value to all in Honduras.”

The empowerment of women was a key theme throughout the Assembly, which was reflected from the start of the event in an historical change of the sexual division of labor in which “men cook and the women talk.”

As the men learned to “throw” and cook tortillas for the first time, women participated in a deliberative process to share realities and develop strategies to work toward greater autonomy in their own organizations, with indigenous and Afro men in their communities, and the society.

In the Final Declaration, indigenous women reported that “many of us live with the violence of our own colleagues [in our organization] and the marginalization by men in our communities and beyond, which are obstacles to our full participation and improvement of our lives as women.”  They also note that “men can change the patriarchy, which enslaves men and kills women, and have carried out the domestic labor [at the Assembly] so that we can work unburdened. ”

The women call for decolonization, including “autonomy over our bodies and our lives, the recovery of community practices, the critique of the patriarchal family and the society organized on market values,” according to a discussion document produced by COPINH and used in the Assembly.

Several children who accompanied their mothers to the event participated by issuing their own statement with their analysis of reality and their expectations.  They also expressed themselves through the language of drawing and painting.  They talked about their communities saying they have “problems of water and electricity; there is a lot of mud and dust; but we love the flowers, fruits, animals and trees.” Also in their declaration, the children mentioned gender equality, saying that the tasks should be allocated equally, whether they are girls or boys.

The women announced plans for another Constituent Assembly in the near future, to be held in the region of Mosquitia in eastern Honduras.

The Assembly inspired the indigenous and Afro-Honduran women’s movement through “a healing process of our multiple identities as women, indigenous and Afro, from the creation of our experiences of people power, strengthening new bonds of solidarity, justice, and freedom, and our own forms of government and life. ”

“We will not surrender despite the brutal oppression against us,” declare the women.  Being indigenous is not only dressing in traditional clothing, speaking a language or eating certain foods, “but it is mainly to have dignity and pride of belonging for centuries to the Earth and fighting for it.”  

The Final Declaration announced the indigenous and Afro- women’s vision of a new Honduras “without capitalism, without racism and without patriarchy. A country without coups, where corruption has no place, without violence of any kind, especially for women, a land with joy, peace, justice and dignity. A Honduras where anyone from outside come and we send it to us and let us choose our laws and authorities. A country that respects the diversity of languages, spirituality, culture, creations, lifestyles, worldviews.”


Photos by MALEVA

For more information, go to:

Read Final Declaration of Copan Galel at: (translation by Adrienne Pine).

For more information about the “Shock Doctrine” by Naomi Klein:



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