Archive for July, 2015

Smile and maybe tomorrow…

Being back home in the past days, I already started to feel nostalgic about the amazing experience as a Peacebuilder Fellow in Honduras. I learned so many enriching things for my professional and personal life during my time there.

One thing that fascinated me is how the country with the most violent city in the world, San Pedro Sula, is also the same country with villages like Santa Ana and Florida, where everyone seems to be willing to help you even if the only thing they have to offer is a smile. Florida is one of the poorest villages in Honduras, but still incredible rich when it comes to hospitality and kindness. In one of the visits there, we had lunch at the public library, a modest one, but the fact it exists is already a triumph for education. There was a little sign with a poem saying “No tengo todo calculado, ni mi vida resuelta. Solo tengo una sonrisa y espero una de vuelta” (I don’t have everything calculated, nor my life solved. I only have a smile and expect one in return). And that is what I feel right now. I don´t know what is going to happen next, what job and place I will be this time next year, but I will always have the amazing memories of Honduras, where people, even in the most critical life conditions, are always there to give you a smile in the belief that, despite the obstacles, “you’ll see the sun come shining through for you” (Smile, Charlie Chaplin).


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Latin America still faces the negative effects of a culture permeated by machismo. From catcalling to domestic violence, women suffer daily abuses across the region.

While in Belgium it is a criminal offence to insult a person based on gender or to make intimidating sexual remarks in the street, in La Espranza, the village where we spent most of our time, not a day goes by without cat calling on our way to the supermarket or to restaurants. The police would definitely have a hard time to handle all the cases if catcalling was illegal in Honduras. Furthermore, talking to the judge of Santa Ana, a municipality in the department of La Paz, one of our case studies, I learned that domestic violence is the most common offense there.

Having said that, it is noteworthy that many of the stories and situations I’ve experienced during my experience here, raised my hopes for a more equal world. For instance, in the department of La Paz, one of the poorest in Honduras, women hold very important positions. I met female mayors and in the local NGO, ASOMAINCUPACO, a network of water committees, highly important for the water governance in the region, the president and the treasurer are women.

10984995_1014914165208947_1169810438209440796_nThis week, we crossed the border to have a meeting in Perquín, El Salvador. Even though it was a short trip, we got the opportunity to visit the Museum of the Revolution. It is one of the most modest museums I’ve visited, yet one of the most interesting. The Museum  contains information on the antecedents and events of the Salvadoran Civil War (1980-1992). It is located in Perquín, because the area was dominated by the Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front (FMLN), formed as an umbrella group of 5 Salvadoran guerrillas.  The impressive role of women was also something that caught my attention during the visit. There were many pictures of female Salvadoran human rights defenders murdered during the war. Many women joined the guerrillas during the war, from cooks to snipers, women were crucial in the resistance movement.  Women were even commanders, like the commander Ana Maria of the Fuerzas Populares de la Liberación (FPL), and the commander Luisa, responsible for the FMLN’s radio network, Radio Venceremos.

The Museum guide, a former guerrilla member, said that the participation of women in the FMLN guerrilla was really important for fostering the gender equality in the region after the war. Even more impressive was his acknowledgement that violence is never the solution. He highlighted that the Museum is really important for other generations to learn with the past and to not commit the same mistakes. He said that the war created social and family disruption, brothers fighting in different sides, and at the end, the ones who gained from the war, were the arms industry, which profited a lot from the war.

This change of mindset of a former guerrilla member made me hopeful for a more peaceful world. However, we will only win, venceremos, if everyone is take into account, gender equality is indispensable for achieving peace.



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