Honduras: Responding to multiple crises to prevent violence against women
“Women are experiencing several pandemics: the pandemic of violence, the pandemic of poverty, and the COVID-19 pandemic.” – Maria Virginia Diaz Mendez, Project Coordinator, Centro de Estudios de la Mujer-Honduras (CEM-H)
In 2020, Honduras was hit by COVID-19 and two devastating hurricanes. The multiple blows deepened inequalities and exposed the most marginalized populations to increased violence, poverty and exclusion.
Violence and discrimination against women
Prior to challenges posed by COVID-19 and the two hurricanes, Honduran women and girls have uniquely and disproportionately been affected by threats and acts of violence. The increased poverty and unemployment left women and girls in Honduras at an even greater risk of multiple manifestations of violence, exploitation and human trafficking. Between January and November 2021, over 240 women lost their lives due to femicide, the highest femicide rate in Latin America. 
Violence against women during the pandemic, “was exacerbated by the imposed movement restrictions and non-functioning institutions, such as law enforcement and the judiciary, which prevented victims from filing complaints”, said Maria Virginia Diaz Mendez. “Many sexual violations remained unpunished.”
Even when women took to the streets to demand food and humanitarian aid, they were met with institutional violence and discrimination, especially Indigenous, rural women and settlers in isolated communities.
Responding to the challenges
In response, Centro de Estudios de la Mujer-Honduras (CEM-H), supported by the UN Trust Fund to End Violence against Women under the Spotlight Initiative, is leading a project that focuses on preventing violence against women and girls in rural and urban areas in Francisco Morazán and Intibucá departments.
In partnership with Plataforma 25 de Noviembre, a network of 22 women's organizations, and CARE Honduras, CEM-H is strengthening the capacities of organizations and networks so they can promote context-specific strategies to end violence against women and girls.
The pandemic has forced CEM-H to adapt its work. Among other things, it has:
- developed systematic training processes for young women through the Feminist Schools initiative at the community level where young women receive training to participate in political communication to advocate for women’s bodily autonomy and rights;
- developed tools and materials for teachers to prevent violence against women and girls in the classroom; and
- mobilized local women’s movements in public campaigns to demand justice for victims of femicide and promote a culture of zero tolerance of violence against women and girls.
Critical need for funding
In countries facing multiple and intersecting crises like Honduras, where disasters linked to climate change are a constant threat, adequate support to ensure local organizations are resilient is key to maintaining essential support for women and girl survivors of violence. Maria Virginia Diaz Mendez said:
“We, the women's rights organizations and feminist networks, are strong in our conviction, activism and commitment. However, we are insufficiently funded and lacking the skill to mobilizing sufficient resources.”
In times of crises, global solidarity to properly resource civil society and women’s rights organizations as first responders is essential to make sure women and girls can live free from violence in all its forms.