At PBI we have been talking about this idea of a protection circle and to protect ourselves we must also take into account the many dimensions and impacts of violence: a spiritual or feeling-based dimension, the psycho-emotional or corporal dimension, the group-relational dimension and, now, we want to talk about the territorial or project dimension. Here we want to discuss the importance of protecting what we fight for or defend: peace for our territory, access to justice, building a truth that is connected to the experiences of those whose rights have been violated, a life free of violence. We seek to build new worlds, or rather, we hope to expand the beautiful worlds that already exist, and we want everyone to have access to them. This brings us to our efforts to organize collectively and defend what we consider as fundamental for life.
During the 2023 Women Defenders Gathering, we came together, our hands filled with objects from our territories and we built a protection circle. A mandala that enveloped the space, welcoming us during the gathering and witnessing manifold beautiful moments of creation, tenderness, and dialogue among women. The protection circle was represented in six moments, each one named based on the participants’ feelings and built out of spontaneity and from the desire to bring our demands and desires to that space. We identified six pillars of protection for women defenders, pillars that are tied to protecting what we are, protecting our dreams.
Human rights and social movements are unique experiences that would be impossible without groups of people coming together with a common aim. Social struggles and the defense of human rights are inevitably collective. Why? Because the systems of power—capitalist, heteropatriarchal, and colonial—and socio-political violence are too tenacious to face alone. Collectively we can discover that the impacts of violence are more common than we had imagined. What I experience may also experienced by my colleague, and this helps free us from the guilt or discomfort that arises from the fact that we feel affected. And because the human rights violations we fight touch a collective fiber, beyond a specific damage, beyond the victimizing act, they move our sense of humanity.
It is common to hear that defending human rights can cause deep feelings of isolation, which can sometimes be alleviated through acts of solidarity, camaraderie, and alliances. Psychosocial accompaniment takes into account this solitude, places it at the center, creates a framework of understanding, and seeks to transform it. In this context, loneliness is easily tied to hopelessness. If I feel alone, I don’t see myself as capable and if I don’t see myself as capable, I stop believing in what I want to achieve. One of the main objectives of sociopolitical violence is precisely to divide, to create feelings of loneliness, incapacity, and hopelessness. What can we do to not fall into despair? How can we build hope? This is one of the big questions. A possible answer is: believe in and strengthen the collective, the process, so that they can provide balance for our wavering sense of humanity.