Last week I participated in the forum “Nowhere to Turn: Gender-Based Violence in the Northern Triangle and its Impact on Migration,” in Washington, DC, to discuss the number of Central American women who are emigrating to the United States to flee domestic violence and the violence caused by gangs in their countries.

The conversation was conducted by the Inter-American Dialogue and the Seattle International Foundation (SIF) and I was invited to present on the situation of violence against women in Honduras, my country, the United State’s response and how this violence relates to migration.

The panel, moderated by Manuel Orozco, director of Migration at the Inter-American Dialogue, also included Corie O’Rourke, Immigration Attorney for Ayuda, and Lindsay Jenkins, Protection Officer at the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, Regional Office for USA and the Caribbean.

I delved into the situation women face in Honduras. I explained the factors that generate violence in my country and the impunity that surrounds it. Honduran women are victims of domestic violence, labor discrimination, and sexual exploitation caused by common delinquency, gangs and organized crime. Sadly, the Supreme Court of Justice only tries 22% of these complaints and cannot guarantee that the measures put forth to protect the women are complied with, which leads to increased vulnerability for them, including risk of death, which is why the majority choose not to report.

Many Honduran migrant women are forced to leave the country due to this violence for which they find no support or protection. The Honduran State is not fulfilling its role as a guarantor of women’s rights, despite the fact that security and defense had a 7% increase in funding from the general budget, whereas education and health received 3% and 1.8% respectively.

Violent death of women is a rising phenomenon with a high negative social impact that is not considered relevant within the State security policies. The increase in resources for security never results in policies to address this particular reality.

Migrant women are not just statistics. They are people who have the right to a full life, hence the importance of addressing the causes of migration and the impact on countries of origin. It is critical to propose economic, social, political and security strategies to develop the economies of Northern Triangle countries, to ensure everyone has access to work, health, education and security and to strengthen the legal and political frameworks in both countries of origin and asylum. Protection networks and safe spaces, minimum standards for the reception of asylum seekers and fair and efficient asylum systems must also be established. In addition, it is important to have democratic systems in which locals exercise their role as social evaluators in public affairs, to create lasting solutions to guarantee everyone’s right to live a life with dignity and fullness.

I am part of a group of leaders from the Central American region that seek to influence and mitigate the causes of migration. I am a participant in SIF’s Centroamerica Adelante 2019-2020 program. For almost 20 years, I have worked for the rights of women, adolescents, youth, girls and boys. I help them to empower themselves so that they can exercise their rights and forge their own destinies. Their primary goal is not to emigrate, but to realize their life plan in their own country. For this, it is important to train them as entrepreneurs and help them develop their lives, those of their families, of their communities and of their country. It is important that both women and young people play a leading role in discussions around migration, its causes and effects. That is why I focus on training leaders who advocate alongside their authorities.

In the forum in Washington, DC, I met admirable professionals who are also working and defending the rights of migrants. I hope to continue communicating with them to grow our networks of contacts and allies and to continue in the struggle to be a voice for those who have not had the opportunity to use their own.

Claudia Izaguirre

Centroamérica Adelante Program Participant