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Meeting with the Activist Lolita Chávez

On 19 January the OihuK feminist space, which in Basque (the co-official language of the Basque Country) means shouting, organized a talk with the indigenous leader Lolita Chávez under the slogan “I was not born to be murdered”.pic lolita

Making Lolita’s words my own, “before you start you have to place yourself” I would like to explain the space, time and movement conditions that took place in this talk that made it something special, not only for the assistants but also for Lolita, as she recognized herself.

Lolita Chávez is a Guatemalan activist with a recognized career as an advocate for indigenous communities, environment, and women’s rights. She is also a leader of the K’iche´s Peoples Council (CPK) for the defense of life, nature, land and territory and she is part of the Mesoamerican Initiative of Women for the Defense of Human Rights.

The talk focused on the work carried out by the Mayan K’iche´s communities against mining companies and transnationals, and to stop the expansion of the mining, lumber, hydroelectric and agroindustrial sectors in the territory. Everything that Lolita talked about was in harmony with several of the Earth Charter pillars, such as:

  1. Respect for Earth and life in all its diversity.
  2. Care for the community of life with understanding, compassion, and love.
  3. Build democratic societies that are just, participatory, sustainable, and peaceful.
  4. Secure Earth’s bounty and beauty for present and future generations.
  5. Protect and restore the integrity of Earth’s ecological systems, with special concern for biological diversity and the natural processes that sustain life.
  6. Ensure that economic activities and institutions at all levels promote human development in an equitable and sustainable manner.
  7. Affirm gender equality and equity as prerequisites to sustainable development and ensure universal access to education, healthcare, and economic opportunity.
  8. Uphold the right of all, without discrimination, to a natural and social environment supportive of human dignity, bodily health, and spiritual well-being, with special attention to the rights of indigenous peoples and minorities.
  9. Strengthen democratic institutions at all levels, and provide transparency and accountability in governance, inclusive participation in decision making, and access to justice.
  10. Promote a culture of tolerance, nonviolence, and peace

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Because of her activism, Lolita Chávez has received threats and attacks that have forced her to leave her country and to be in Bilbao during these months in the Program of Temporary Protection of Human Rights Defenders. Therefore, the time in which the talk was given also has its reason. Next 29 January, Lolita will receive the “Ignacio Ellacuria” Basque Cooperation Award 2017, granted by the Basque Government in recognition of her work in defense of Human Rights and in favor of equality and justice among peoples.

OihuK is a recovered and self-managed space for women located in the neighborhood of Rekalde in the city of Bilbao. At first, you can think that its existence is by chance, but, remembering the history of this worker and activist neighborhood we can understand why the first feminist, self-managed and recovered space from the Basque Country is in this neighborhood and not in another place. Back in the 70s, the first Psychosocial Module and family planning program was launched for women and opened in Rekalde, making it a reference place for the country of Spain.

Lolita Chávez’s talk in OihuK took place 10 days before receiving the “Ignacio Ellacuría” Award and a few months before she will return to her country with great enthusiasm to return to her roots, her family, her community, but, also at risk of being arrested or killed. Her speech gave her the necessary courage to know that she will not go alone, and as she asked, we will continue supporting her in all her work from here.

Maltiox, Eskerrik asko, Thank you, Lolita!

Photos: Itxaso Bengoetxea and OihuK

Written by: ECYL Itxaso Bengoetxea

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