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Liberation: Of Land & Women
By Nikhil Aziz
May 11th, 2009
Saulo and I traveled with our partner Rafael Alegria of the Via Campesina and COCOCH (Honduran Coordinating Council of Campesino Organizations), about an hour northeast of Honduras' capital Tegucigalpa, near the town of Comayagua, to meet Analina Claros, one of the leaders of the Nueve Noviembre (November 9th) settlement, and her neighbors. This is what she shared with us over a wonderful homecooked stew of chicken and vegetables and freshly made corn tortillas, all grown and raised in their settlement:
I am originally from La Paz, which is another department of Honduras. My husband and I cultivated land there as sharecroppers and grew beans and corn. But I was always worried as there was no security of tenure. The landowner could throw us out any time he wanted.
I had been actively involved with a local women's group in La Paz and first met Rafael (Alegria - from the Via Campesina Central America) in 1997 when he was the general secretary of COCOCH. COCOCH had come to help us organize and provided us with support, and I've been involved with it since. My local group used to have women from different parts of La Paz, and we met to decide who had the most need and then worked together to support them. I saw COCOCH as doing that for people nationally.
COCOCH is a member of the Via Campesina, which brings campesinos like us from all over the world together. That is very important and I feel stronger when I know that I am a member of a much larger movement of people like me. I talk to the women I work with at the local level about that, and about how our challenges here are shared by other women around the world, and that they too, like us, are working to change things.
I moved here to Comayagua to help found this settlement. Nueve Noviembre (November 9th) was the first day of our land occupation, and so that's what we named our settlement that has been in existence since 2004. We are about 180 families that live and work together here. Since 2004 we have been evicted six times and are still waiting for land title; although the government told us in April 2008 that the land is ours.
Since working with COCOCH, I have been organizing women nationally. I and two other women founded the Union de Mujeres Campesina de Honduras (Honduran Peasant Women's Union). UMCH is a member of COCOCH and works in all 6 departments of Honduras. We felt that we needed to organize women and go beyond providing legitimacy to male leadership by just being in male-dominated organizations.
Women's independence and liberation are very important to me. Women have less access to resources, including economic resources like land. UMCH has created a solidarity fund to support women to buy equipment like tortilla machines that would make their work easier and also enable them to earn some income to help with their families' needs. We also work to support women's demands for housing, land, and productive projects like cattle-raising where we distribute calves to women. The calves are the women's bank accounts!