For some time now, Peace Brigades International has been reflecting on the concept of holistic protection. Contributions from women defenders and feminist organizations have brought to light the need to question militaristic protection models but also to understand protection in all its dimensions. Holistic protection is a political mindset that seeks to create protection models that question the state monopoly, power relations, and individualism but it is also rooted in the idea that what is “personel is political”. That is to say, protection is also related to the ties that we create, and with our affections, identities, bodily pains, values, symbols, and ties with nature. That is why we talk about meaning or spirituality, the body-mind-heart dimension, and the collective dimension of protection. Protecting ourselves is more than just surviving, it is being able to continue with our activities as defenders of rights, it is also constructing our lives, nourishing our dreams, and strengthening our bonds.
Accordingly, protection is connected to care and, thankfully, with healing. Protecting ourselves is creating tools to prevent painful situations, that is to say, taking decisions in the face of risks generated by the context. In contexts that also have so much socio-political violence, the risks are high, as are the impacts experienced as women who seek to prevent or live with these risks. Thus, to protect ourselves we must recognize everything that the violence has, and continues to, generates in us, giving it space and value.
On 10, 11 and 12 of July we gathered with approximately 40 women in Guatemala City. Some of us come from Colombia, others from Honduras, Mexico, and others from places far from Guatemala. Some of are 15 years old and others almost 70. Some are Indigenous, Black, mixed-race, or white, we came from territories of Abya Yala in resistance and from spaces of internacional solidarity. It was a large group of women eating, sleeping, talking, bathing, walking, and breathing together.
Everything we experienced made us feel calm, moved, and supported. Is this healing? Is healing in our hands? In our history?
Healing was a circle.
Healing was talking about experiences that we had not shared before.
Healing was being together and holding each other.
Healing was music.
Healing was the meaning, remembering again that we were there for a reason.
Healing was saying: We DO NOT want this violence.
Healing was that “patriarchy did not expect this, it did not expect us to come together and that we would dance” said Lorena Cabnal of TZK’AT, the Network of Ancestral Healers based on Community and Territorial Feminism in Iximulew, Guatemala.
Healing was looking up and seeing trees and the sky.
Healing was laughing.
Healing was crying.
Healing was the plants we drank, ate, and those we used to bathe and massage our bodies and souls.
Healing was sleeping.
And all of this, so simple and yet so transforming, became a protective fire.
Some days the most important protection is what reminds us that we are together.
Thank you to all the women who who made it possible.
Thank you to the women of Abya Yala who continue lighting and learning from the fire.