When I think about Yessica Trinidad, I picture her smiling. Not only because she giggles all the time, but because she has one of the most contagious laughs. These are good qualities for anyone to have—but for Yessica, because of the work she does, they are remarkable. As Coordinator of the Red Nacional Defensoras de Derechos Humanos en Honduras / National Network of Women Human Rights Defenders in Honduras (the Network), Yessica has a very difficult job.
Yessica has always felt the need to be strong and step up for those who cannot protect themselves. This strength has made it easier for Yessica to carry out the work of the Network, which she has coordinated since 2013.
Yessica does many tasks as Coordinator of the Network. She is responsible for accompanying women during protests, guaranteeing legal support, and elevating their complaints to a national and international level. When possible it also includes guaranteeing women defenders’ well-being. But, the task is also a personal one; and it cannot be any other way. In order for Yessica to fulfill her duty, there must be trust between the women defenders and the Network.
Honduras is known for human rights violations and threats against women defenders, especially those who defend the land, Indigenous rights and freedom of expression. Women defenders are criminalized because of their gender and are often stigmatized by their families, organizations and communities. Women defenders face discrimination from all sides including from the government and private companies, but also from those within their own organizations who feel their power is threatened by the rise of women’s voices.
While these issues are rarely taken under consideration in human rights organizations and social movements—Yessica has made them a pillar of the Honduran Network of Women Defenders’ work. Women defenders learn by experience that in order to protect others, they have to first protect themselves. Defending the defenders is as personal as it gets and so self-care is the second pillar of the Network.
The Network represents the extent of what women supporting women can achieve. During the second National Meeting of Women Defenders, one woman said, “This network saves lives, I know it saved mine.” This is what Yessica believes in.
Sustaining this Network is not an easy task, and doing it with a smile is worth a round of applause.
Neesa joined us in Ottawa for the 2015 Sister-to-Sister Mentorship Program. She completed six weeks of communications and advocacy training alongside two young women activists from Burma and South Sudan. Neesa is now continuing her work to promote women’s rights in Honduras.