CARE Partner Profile: Las Hormigas (“the Ants”)

CARE works with many incredible local partners around the world to help deliver projects that have meaningful, lasting impact on individuals and communities. Las Hormigas is one of our PROLEMPA project partners in Honduras.

What does your organization do and where is it located?

Las Hormigas (“the Ants”) is a women's grassroots organization in Intibucá, Honduras covering the municipalities of the Department of Intibucá and now also in Lempira and La Paz.

We take steps to prevent violence against women, raise awareness, especially when it comes to domestic violence, and prevent and raise awareness of family abuse and sexual violence. We carry out awareness campaigns on gender-based violence and on women’s empowerment and advocate with authorities at the local and national level.

How does your organization partner with CARE?

Through CARE’s PROLEMPA project, which is supported by Global Affairs Canada, Las Hormigas has been able to serve other municipalities that were not within our coverage in other departments, such as La Paz and Lempira, to promote municipal policies that support women’s rights and to develop training for women on the issue of gender-based violence. We have been able to see how we can articulate our work with women's networks and organizations at the local level of the Lempa region to create a structure that allows us to have greater impact.

In Honduras, 5% of the municipal budget is legally supposed to go towards the economic empowerment of women. Las Hormigas and PROLEMPA are working with women and women’s groups and businesses to create business proposals and present them to their municipalities in open town hall meetings for approval and funding. Overall, PROLEMPA is working to make sure that this 5% is allocated properly and is actually invested in the economic empowerment of women.

What have you seen in your community in terms of how the pandemic has specifically affected women?

During the lockdown, the main impact has been on women’s livelihoods—their ability to earn an income to support themselves and their families. The majority of women in our municipalities are producers, and they lost a lot of their product since they could not market it. Other women who work with private companies were let go from their jobs.

Domestic violence worsened, and institutions were closed, so women could not get the support they needed. It was at this time that we received more phone calls from people experiencing abuse to help support them in making an official denouncement against their abuser. Because there was no public transport, many people experiencing abuse did not have a way to report their situation of domestic violence personally.

In terms of health, as everything focused on the pandemic, there was no attention given to the demand for sexual and reproductive health, leaving [women] unprotected. Reports of rape of minors also increased.

How have women risen to meet these challenges?

What we and other organizations did first was to attend to very urgent needs such as food. Then we supported the strengthening of family gardens to be able to ensure food for the future. The women's [municipal] networks advocated with local governments to provide food, supplies and Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), and to ensure the production of certain foods that would help to meet the most urgent needs over the long term.

Women offered solidarity and support to each other. Those who had more access to food shared with other families [who have less access].

How is your organization working to empower women to lead for the long term, beyond COVID-19?

What we are doing now is what we call "ant work"—traveling to the communities, doing short days with women (following safety measures), and developing campaigns through social networks and other media such as radio and television. We raise awareness and work specifically on increasing knowledge of women’s rights and discussing what kinds of advocacy actions they can take.

We are also doing work with young people so that they become aware of the importance of safeguarding women’s rights and preventing violence against women.

How can we (as individuals and as a collective) ensure that women around the world can lead in creating a better world for all of us?

We must strengthen local women's organizations and promote the participation of women in decision-making spaces. But before women reach those spaces, we all have to do the job of unlearning all the patriarchal leadership that has been instilled in each of us. Often times, those who are in power, act in a way that reproduces those problematic patterns. We must do the awareness-raising work and then strengthen capacity so that women can participate in decision-making spaces at the local, departmental and community level, so that more women can go on to propose actions that facilitate or address both immediate needs and long-term interests of women.