TEGUCIGALPA, Honduras - “There are many things I like about Bajamar, my hometown,” said 14-year old Neily. “The town always felt like one big family. We all looked out for each other.” Unfortunately, Neily and her family have been forced to flee the town she loves due to the surge in violence over the past few years.

Neily’s story is not unique. Reports of displacement and migration due to threats, intimidation, sexual violence by gang members, and murders are common. Over the past decade, more than 4,600 femicides — when a woman or girl is killed because of her gender — have been recorded in Honduras.  

Although official statistics that detail the full magnitude of the violence women and girls face are hard to come by, figures from the justice ministry show that in 2013, more than 21,000 legal complaints of domestic violence were filed with courts — 92 per cent of them were filed by women seeking justice.

The violence Neily experienced in Bajamar made her feel isolated among her peers in the new town where she lives. “I was scared people would not accept me,” Neily said. “I was afraid people would not believe me and that they would keep their distance from me.”

Despite these challenges, Neily has shown remarkable resilience. She is now the president of her school’s student body. She is a member of the children’s congress and is an activist for peace in her community.

As part of her activism, Neily spoke at the high-level launch of the Spotlight Initiative in Honduras. The event brought together government representatives, civil society leaders and representatives from the European Union (EU) and the United Nations (UN) to secure political commitments and galvanize support for the new national programme to end femicide and violence against women and girls in Honduras.

“I would like violence to end forever,” said Neily. “I want girls and women who have lived through situations of violence to speak up. Silence is a form of darkness, and in darkness we can not express ourselves.”

President Juan Orlando Hernandez delivers his speech at the launch of Spotlight Initiative in Honduras. Photo credit: Vinilo DM&A

“In 2018, we announced that ending femicide would be a priority for our human rights agenda. We can not accept this reality any longer. We must invest in boys and girls and young people to change the culture.” - President Juan Orlando Hernandez.

In partnership with the Government of Honduras and civil society, the Spotlight Initiative will invest more than $11 million to develop and strengthen strategic interventions designed to end femicide and prevent and respond to violence against women and girls in the municipalities of Tegucigalpa, San Pedro, La Ceiba, Choloma and Intibucá.  

Spotlight Initiative programmes will address policy and legislative gaps, change social norms and behaviours that are conducive to violence, provide quality services for survivors, produce data to inform public policies and galvanise women's movements and other civil society actors, in support of Honduras’ development, while leaving no one behind.

“We want to highlight the importance to invest specifically in women and girls to reach the Sustainable Development Goals,” said UN Resident Coordinator Igor Garafulic.

Neily would like to continue contributing to ending violence against women and girls. “When I grow up, I want to become a detective!” said Neily. I want to make sure that women and girls who have experienced violence receive justice.”

With the launch of the Spotlight initiative, Honduras is taking a vital step towards fulfilling Neily’s dream.

By Matias Lindemann.