‘We want to empower girls and young women by giving them access to information about their rights, and the opportunity to meet and learn together. Human rights movements are generally adult-centric, and the perspectives and visions of adolescents and youngsters are missing from the political debate. We want to change that.’ – Sarah Rodas (Coordinator) Grupo Artemisa
Artemisa puts various social issues on the agenda, such as environmental justice, sexual and reproductive health, and the rights of lesbian and bisexual girls. ‘We challenge the strong Catholic teaching in Honduras about homosexuality as a sin,’ explains Sarah. ‘Lesbian and bisexual girls are rejected by their fathers and their families as bad and abnormal. They are pressured to submit to family life and the duty of reproduction. We confront misconceptions and prejudices, and build awareness, both among girls and in their communities. It is education on both sides. You have to make sure that lesbian and bisexual girls know their rights, and that everyone else around them knows too. This is how we fight against hatred, rejection, and violence.’ Their work is making an impact. Project manager Dalinda Molina - also known as Kenny - says, ‘We see that various topics that were previously taboo are now being discussed more – topics such as domestic violence, suicide among adolescents, sexual abuse, and teenage pregnancy, which is very common in our community. In all these areas, we work on prevention through education.’
Artemisa works with girls to strengthen their self-image and self-care. ‘We also involve their parents in our work,’ explains Sarah. ‘Many parents cannot read or write themselves. If girls pass on the knowledge they gain, it is more likely that old patterns will be broken.
Artemisa is also active on the issue of environmental justice. The group is teaching girls to grow their own food, to strengthen their food security. ‘They learn how to create and maintain small food gardens,’ says Kenny. ‘It is wonderful to see how happy they become when they manage to grow lettuce, bell peppers, and other vegetables.’ In addition, Grupo Artemisa supports girls in their desire to do something about climate change. ‘Many girls struggle with climate anxiety,’ Sarah explains. ‘Together, we set up a project in which they gave everyday objects a second life, and came up with new creative applications to reuse and recycle utensils and reduce plastic waste at home.’
Grupo Artemisa also works in schools. The group organises educational games to address important issues in a playful way. Such issues include setting boundaries, preventing violence, overcoming obstacles, and encouraging girls to ask questions and think for themselves. Artemisa’s efforts to prevent girls from dropping out of school have reduced the dropout rates among girls. The state has even recognised the group as an official organisation for the educational work they do.
Despite their successes, Artemisa sees a long road ahead. ‘Hate campaigns are regularly waged against us. But we can’t sit back and do nothing,’ remarks Sarah. ‘We must arm ourselves with patience. Some of us have been through very difficult situations ourselves in the past, so we are extremely motivated to help girls who are going through similar things.’ Kenny describes Mama Cash’s support as priceless: ‘It offers us autonomy, freedom and flexibility. [There are] no rigid rules to adhere to. [We] freely choose things that work in our context. It provides real financial independence.
Mama Cash uses the term homoantagonism rather than homophobia to describe this form of bigotry. A true phobia is a type of anxiety disorder that causes individuals extreme, irrational fear of things that poses little or no actual danger. Bigotry, however, is a chosen set of behaviours and values. The term homoantagonism better encompasses the bigoted violence that is perpetrated.