Berta Cáceres: a lifelong commitment and a noble spirit

March 8, 2016

On this International Women’s Day, a day meant to pay tribute to and support women and their achievements everywhere, we unfortunately are also mourning the tragic murder of a world-renowned environmental and human rights defender Berta Cáceres, killed in her home by unknown assailants shortly after midnight on March 3rd.

Berta Cáceres was the coordinator and co-founder of the Council of Indigenous Peoples of Honduras, or COPIHN.  She was also a leader of the Lenca Indigenous community, staunch human rights, gender equality defender and a feminist. She was awarded the prestigious Goldman Environmental Prize in 2015 for successfully stopping the construction of a major river dam. Her murder rapidly sent shock waves across the country and abroad, sparking international outrage over her death.

The entire Hivos community vehemently condemns her killing and supports the demands of Berta’s family and COPINH for a thorough, independent investigation. We share the grief and join the call of organizations from all over the world urging the Honduran government to take immediate steps to address the threats and dangers facing activists that also cost Berta her life.

We collaborated with Berta through our longstanding support for human rights defenders and organizations throughout the region. Hivos Latin America supported the C-Libre initiative and its RAPCOS project through Actores de Cambio, which created freedom of speech alerts to report the lack of prosecutions in the cases of murdered journalists. C-Libre also highlighted cases of judicial repression of environmental defenders. One of those alerts was created for Berta.

A photo in a local paper caught our attention. “Berta will be back and she’ll be back in the millions” was scribbled angrily in Spanish on a piece of cardboard held by an unknown woman in Honduras protesting Berta’s murder.

Yet if we look back, Berta Cáceres was already “in the millions”.

Over the years at Hivos Latin America, we have worked with so many Bertas. They are women who risk their lives to defend and preserve lands named by ancient civilizations, women who try to ensure a future for their language, their people, their trees and their knowledge. They are called human right defenders, activists, environmentalists or feminists. We call them women that speak up for their rights.

We are thankful for having been part of this great woman’s vision, even if it was indirectly. We would like to think that from Hivos we are millions with Berta; just as we are millions with all the women in Latin America we support and work with. The women who struggle with HIV, the women who transgress gender roles, the women who have survived violence and those who take small, but giant steps towards their economic empowerment.

Berta’s noble spirit and undying commitment inspire us to keep on fighting for a world where all people are unlimited.