CAWN: 25 YEARS OF SOLIDARITY

AND PROMOTING WOMEN’S RIGHTS

Contents Section 1. The last five years..................3 Section 4. The legacy................ 20
Section 2. Change and continuity...........7 Final words................................ 22
Chronology.............................................12 CAWN’s people........................ 23
Section 3. CAWN’s evolution..................16 Acknowledgements.................. 24
REFLECTIONS ON THE ROAD
TRAVELLED BY CAWN:
25 YEARS OF SOLIDARITY
AND PROMOTING WOMEN’S RIGHTS

Introduction
In this, our final publication, we start with an account of our work in the past five years since
our 20th Anniversary newsletter in 2011. We go on to review the developments in the main
thematic areas on which CAWN has focussed since the beginning, considering what has and
has not changed over the last two and a half decades. In the third section we reflect on the de-
velopment of CAWN itself and how its evolution from a loose network to a fully funded organ-
isation managing large-scale projects has affected our ethos and way of working. We conclude
with some thoughts about CAWN’s legacy and the future. We also reflect on CAWN’s solidarity
activities and the changing landscape in which the feminist movement is operating, and the
changing nature of activism by women’s movements in Central America and in the UK.

Above: CAWN members march in support for the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, 2016

2
1. The last five years
CAWN has been extremely active since 2011. Not only including facilitators from Tanzania and Costa Rica who
have we continued working on many of the issues pre- ran workshops entitled ‘The power of radio drama’ and
viously pursued, such as women’s labour and reproduc- ‘The media’s role in social transformation’. The feed-
tive rights, but we have also entered into new areas back was very positive; it was particularly appreciat-
working in collaboration with new partners, both in ed that the trainers came from the global South and
the North and the South, on the portrayal of women in brought new perspectives. Participants highlighted the
the media, trafficking of women, women’s work in the effectiveness of using creative learning methods and
informal economy and the effective use of alternative the way the wide variety of the trainees’ backgrounds
media in campaigning and advocacy. Some of the main made the programme a great exchange forum. Many
highlights of our work in this period are described in trainees committed to writing articles and blogs and
this section. others carried out interviews for radio programmes.
Four radio dramas produced during the training were
Getting the word out: broadcast. Workshop participants were encouraged to
using alternative media to promote make greater use of IT for communication on women’s
gender awareness and change rights issues and to support networking among wom-
en’s organisations and activists. We emphasised the im-
In our last major project, which was funded by the EC
portance of taking actions to promote women’s human
from 2011 to 2014, CAWN broached new territory. We
rights and equality.
joined forces with Frauensolidarität, an Austrian wom-
en’s organisation, which has specialised in the use of Throughout this project we carried out research and
media as a vehicle to raise awareness and campaign for produced media interventions on new topics for CAWN,
women’s rights. In this project we focussed on develop- in order to increase the visibility of global issues which
ment education and solidarity actions and were able to did not have a high public profile, in particular the
draw in partner organisations from Central America and trafficking of women, women working in the informal
other countries, who took part in training and speaker sector, and the objectification and exclusion of women
tours. Participating students and community activists in by the mainstream media. In 2012, in the lead-up to
the UK and Austria learned through our training cours- the London Olympics, we carried out research moni-
es how to build their capacity to trigger social change. toring the UK print press and critiquing their narratives
We produced in-depth policy briefings and factsheets, on the exploitation and trafficking of women, especially
made exciting radio programmes, offered a series of the links they made between migrant women and sex
workshops on the use of alternative media and advoca- work1. Our aim was to dispel the myths and negative
cy skills, and also organised a conference, seminars and stereotypes with which migrant women are portrayed
public meetings aimed at a wider audience. in the press. We also organised a conference with over
100 participants on trafficking and images of women,
A key element of the project was to facilitate South–
drawing attention to the global inequalities that drive
South learning. We invited women from Central America
women from poorer regions to seek a better life abroad
and Southern Africa to come together for three speak-
and highlighting the problems faced by migrant Latin
er tours in the UK and Europe; they also participated
American women in the UK.
in two international media training events focussed on
using the media as a tool for social development. One One of our key aims in this project was to increase
of these was a three-day training workshop on using policy makers’ understanding of women’s rights, glo-
radio, with 30 participants from 14 different countries, balisation and the media. In the run-ups to the 2014

1
Kate Cooper and Sue Branford, Exploitation and trafficking of women, critiquing narratives during the London Olympics
2012, CAWN
3
CAWN 25th Anniversary

Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, the 2014 World
Cup in Brazil and the 2016 Olympics, we approached
British MPs, MEPs and Brazilian policy makers to discuss
our report’s recommendations regarding major sport-
ing events. This lobbying was very successful: we di-
rectly influenced the Brazilian National Anti-Trafficking
Committee, the Brazilian Government’s official advisory
body developing anti-trafficking policy. A member of
the committee we contacted later informed us:

“ Policy makers and media personnel actually
read the report and are shocked at how badly
the trafficking issue is misrepresented in the
Protesters remember Berta Cáceres outside the Honduran Embassy
media. This has led to many requests for in- in London, days after her murder. Photograph: London Mexico Now
terviews with sex-working immigrant women
here in Brazil.” Unfinished business: women’s work
in the formal and informal sectors
Another lobbying opportunity we seized was the Glob-
al Summit to End Sexual Violence in Conflict, held in In the past few years we have continued to focus on
London in June 2014. The Summit agreed to take women’s labour rights. For example, through the
practical steps to tackle impunity for the use of rape EC-funded project we worked closely with War on Want
as a weapon of war, and to begin to change global and its partner organisation in Honduras, CODEMUH,
attitudes to these crimes. CAWN staff and volunteers the collective of Honduran women workers, who have
attended the Summit and distributed 200 copies of a extensive experience on labour rights and with whom
leaflet raising awareness about the systematic use of we had previously worked. In 2003 we invited them to
sexual violence and slavery in Guatemala during the participate in a roundtable we organised with the Ethi-
civil war, and a letter was sent to the UK Home Office cal Trading Initiative as part of a Southern consultation
Minister on the matter. to make women’s voices more audible within ETI. In
2013 CAWN invited representatives of CODEMUH and
CAWN also sent letters of concern about the safety of
from Sikhula Sonke in South Africa on a speaker tour in
women human rights defenders in Honduras and met with
the UK and Austria to meet with policy makers, union
the Honduran ambassador in London in October 2012
representatives and women’s organisations. Another
and in 2013, expressing our concerns about widespread
emerging research topic was that of women workers
violence against women (VAW) and asking for these con-
in the informal sector. We commissioned research on
cerns to be passed on to the Honduran government. We
the situation and organisations of women domestic
protested strongly when leaders of COPINH, the Hon-
workers and women workers in other marginalised oc-
duran Civic Council of Indigenous Grassroots Organisa-
cupations, such as waste picking, in Central America.
tions, were harassed and assassinated in January 2014,
More recently we looked at the potential for – and bar-
as the grassroots social movement struggled to defend
riers to – the empowerment of women in the tourism
communities and indigenous peoples against land-grab-
sector and published a Briefing Paper on the situation
bing and other violations of human and environmental
in Nicaragua. Following on from this initiative, we in-
rights. In 2016 we organised a protest and vigil jointly
vited Sandra Ramos, the director of one of CAWN’s
with other solidarity groups in London outside the Hon-
long-standing partners, the María Elena Cuadra Wom-
duran Embassy following the murder of Berta Cáceres, a
en’s Movement (MEC) in Nicaragua, to the UK to par-
leading Honduran feminist and environmentalist.

1
Kate Cooper and Sue Branford, Exploitation and trafficking of women, critiquing narratives during the London Olympics
2012, CAWN

4
ticipate in the World Travel Market, where she spoke including among human rights bodies and the UN. In
about gender issues in Nicaragua’s expanding tourism 2012 Sonia Tábora finally regained her freedom after
sector, sharing the platform with speakers from Turkey spending seven years in prison as a result of suffering a
and Mozambique. Sandra also addressed meetings miscarriage – having been accused of aggravated mur-
with students and trade unions on women’s work in the der and sentenced to 30 years. In 2013 a young woman,
changing global economy and the worsening violation Beatriz, was forced to undergo a non-viable pregnancy
of labour rights in multinational companies in the free with life-threatening consequences for her health and,
trade zones of Nicaragua. despite international pressure, the national authorities
would not authorise a termination of the pregnancy.
Women’s reproductive rights Since 2014, ACDATEE has worked on several cases
where women have been condemned for aggravated
A key focus for CAWN in the past 5 years has been wom-
murder following a miscarriage, stillbirth or obstetric
en’s reproductive rights. We produced a Briefing Paper,
complications, and where their rights to due process
Maternal health, reproductive rights and the criminalisa-
were violated and their trials did not meet international
tion of abortion, in 2012, and another, Women’s repro-
legal standards. One is that of María Teresa, a mother
ductive rights, in 2015, which gives an overview of the
who, after suffering obstetric complications, was given
legal situation in Latin America with a particular focus on
a 40-year prison sentence for aggravated murder, al-
El Salvador. We also provided advice and practical help
though there was no conclusive proof of an abortion.
to Al-Jazeera in the production of the 2013 documentary
These are the women of the campaign of the group ‘Las
about the situation in El Salvador, Life at any price.
17’, launched in March 2014 and later expanded to ‘Las
Throughout Latin America severe abortion laws have 17 y más’ (the 17 and more) as new cases of irregular
dire consequences for women, and El Salvador is one and unfair trials keep emerging.
example of the extreme harshness of these laws. Since
June 2014 CAWN has supported the activities of a
partner organisation in El Salvador, the Citizens’ Group
for the Decriminalisation of Abortion (ACDATEE). They
focus on two main activities: campaigning for a more
open public debate on reproductive rights and reform
of the penal code, which criminalises abortion under
every circumstance, even when the pregnancy compro-
mises the health or the life of the mother. They also
provide legal support for women victims of this draco-
nian legislation. CAWN’s role in the project has been
international advocacy and awareness-raising. We have
gathered signatures for petitions to pardon women
who have been treated unfairly by the judicial system,
which we have sent to the authorities in El Salvador, and
lobbied MEPs involved in EU–Latin American relations
and human rights. We cannot know if these initiatives
will bear fruit, however, as the process is ongoing with
no immediate end to this injustice in sight.

In the last few years a number of women’s cases have International media training on radio broadcasting, organised by
generated international attention and condemnation, CAWN in London, 2012

5
CAWN 25th Anniversary

A Festival of Choice
Since 2014 CAWN has been one of the organising part- have helped increase the visibility of campaigns such
ners of the Festival of Choice, a series of events around as those in El Salvador and elsewhere in Latin America
the International Action Day for the Decriminalisation and Europe.
of Abortion (September 28th) aimed at raising aware-
Based on the success of the Festival, CAWN contributed
ness about local and international campaigns for sexual
to the preparation a practical handbook, the Festival of
and reproductive rights. Partner groups in the Festival
Choice Instruction Pack, to be used by other groups to
include the 15M Women’s Assembly, Amnesty Interna-
organise similar events around the UK or even abroad. 2
tional, Voice for Choice, and many others. The events

First Festival of Choice. Photograph: Amnesty International UK

The campaign for Las 17
Currently there is a total ban of all forms of abortion in El Salvador, even on medical grounds and
when women’s lives are in danger. It is estimated that over 35,000 young women undergo unsafe,
clandestine abortions every year, putting their lives in danger. Women are imprisoned and given
heavy sentences of 30–50 years if they are suspected of having an abortion, even in cases of miscar-
riage. Doctors and health personnel suspected of carrying out abortions are also criminalised and
are therefore reluctant to be involved in these cases for fear of being struck off. Most of the women
who are imprisoned and charged with homicide are young women from the poorest sectors, who
have had obstetric complications, or gone into premature labour, without medical assistance and,
having gone for help to public hospitals, haemorrhaging and in a state of shock, were charged with
having an abortion while in the emergency ward.
– Excerpt from El Salvador in focus: the criminalisation of abortion, CAWN Briefing Paper,
September 2015

Right: They are neither criminals nor murderers, we demand their
freedom’, from the campaign for Las 17.

2
This handbook can be found at issuu.com/festivalofchoice/docs/
zine_color_online; for more information visit festivalofchoice.org.

6
2. Change and continuity
When CAWN was founded in 1991, the Nicaraguan have not changed very much, three major scourges
revolution was ongoing, though severely embattled; persist – poverty, violence and inequality. Conflict con-
the civil war in El Salvador would be declared officially tinues, fuelled by aggressive neo-liberalism, organised
over in 1992; Guatemala’s war still had five years to run and opportunistic crime, gangs and the drugs trade. Life
before its 1996 peace accord. By the end of the 1980s for women working in the maquila 3 industries is harsher:
it had become increasingly clear to women involved in Nicaragua, for instance, increasing numbers of facto-
in Central-America-related human rights and solidarity ries have been bought up by Korean and other Asian
work in Britain that, whatever the differences between companies, whose labour practices and repression of
the struggles in the different countries of the region, trade unionism are even more brutal than before. The
the struggles of women were essentially similar every- 2009 coup thrust Honduras into the forefront of trou-
where. CAWN emerged in a regional context where ble in the region, bringing back savage repression. The
revolutionary struggle and change were occurring in rationale and focus of violence have shifted, but the vi-
several countries but gender equality was still seen as olence itself is as bad as ever, as is the poverty of most
a luxury that would come only after the battles for a of the region’s people. Meanwhile, the recent escalation
‘new society’ were won. of attacks on human rights defenders in Honduras and
indigenous rights campaigners in Guatemala make it
Central America now looks different in many respects.
clear that the space for social activism is shrinking.
Civil and military governments have risen and fallen.
CAWN has witnessed the expansion of neo-liberalism,
The continuing struggles of Central
the establishment of free trade agreements between
American women
the region and both the European Union and the United
States, and big changes in the policy and delivery of de- In many ways the situation for women is worse than ever.
velopment aid. But, although the fundamental concepts Old threats to women’s rights surface repeatedly in new
of social justice, women’s rights and gender equality guises – from the maquila to the informal sector, from

Photograph: Eva Cristina Urbina, CEM-H

3
Maquila is short for maquiladoras, which are manufacturing factories operating assembly lines for the production of garments and
other goods. These are mainly foreign-owned companies operating in the free trade zones in Central America. 7
CAWN 25th Anniversary

domestic violence to rape as a weapon of war, from
women as refugees to women as migrants exposed to
trafficking. CAWN has found itself responding again
and again to calls from existing and new partners for
support in their struggles against VAW, including sexual
violence, and the abolition of reproductive, gender and
labour rights. VAW is undiminished, even increasing in
the terrifying form of femicide – the killing of women
just because they are women.4 In Honduras and El Sal-
vador, different sexualities and feminist activism are
increasingly repressed and attacks on reproductive
rights are escalating. Under the strong political influ-
ence of both the Catholic and Protestant Evangelical
churches, the Salvadorean and Nicaraguan govern-
Advocacy training by CAWN, 2012
ments have enacted new and draconian legislation
criminalising even emergency abortions undertaken
to save the lives of the mother. And the feeble re- “ MEC pressurised me most of all through
their process of consultation. This obliged us
sponses to climate change from governments and
[as members of Congress] to respond, and
the private sector pose future threats to livelihoods
particularly it obliged us to strengthen the
and food security, and therefore to much of women’s
parts on economic and labour rights, which
traditional work.
were weaker in the previous proposal. MEC
included these issues on the basis of their
The value of long-term partnerships members’ experience.”
One significant change for the better over the quar- — Congresswoman Mónica Baltodano,
ter-century is that many Central American women’s in interview about the impact of MEC,
organisations have become stronger, more vocal and supported advocacy around Nicaragua’s Equal
Opportunities Law, passed in 2008
more organised, with more and more individual women
confidently assuming leadership. This is certainly true of
CAWN’s two most long-standing partners, MEC in Nic-
research and lobbying on the EU–Central America As-
aragua and the Centre for Women’s Studies (CEM-H) in
sociation Agreement or free trade agreement. Sandra
Honduras. Both these organisations reflect – and have
Ramos, the director of MEC, and other staff members
greatly influenced – the two major strands of CAWN’s
have visited the UK on a number of very successful
work throughout its history: defending women’s labour
speaker tours, and their passion and commitment to
and economic rights and combating VAW.
women workers’ rights have led to many inspiring dis-
CAWN and MEC first collaborated in 1996 in training cussions. CAWN’s role in this field, with MEC and oth-
and advocacy for women’s rights, especially labour er partners, has always been to assist and promote the
rights. In the 1990s CAWN supported MEC’s innova- process of empowerment, and accompany the work
tive development of a model for monitoring company in Central America with advocacy aimed at the UK
codes of conduct; more recently MEC was a key part- government, the EU institutions, and (through partici-
ner in a large project (2005–2008) promoting the civil pation in the ETI, 1998–2009) private businesses, and
and economic rights of women in Nicaragua, including ensure that policy makers hear the voices of Central
capacity building in economic literacy for women and American women.

4
See Marina Prieto-Carrón, Marilyn Thomson, and Mandy Macdonald, ‘No more killings! Women respond to femicides in Central
America’, Gender & Development 15/1, March 2007, Oxfam GB.

8
The partnership with CEM-H in Honduras also has
a long history, going back at least to 2004, when its
director Mirta Kennedy alerted CAWN to the sharp
rise in violence against women – in the home, in the
street, from criminal gangs, and from the government,
which allowed men to harm and kill women with impu-
nity. CAWN’s most important project in collaboration
with CEM-H, ‘Challenging Violence against Women
in Honduras: identifying the links between reducing
poverty and promoting women’s rights’ (2006–2011),
linked VAW definitively with poverty, bringing together
two major strands of CAWN’s work. Most important-
ly, it enabled women from poor communities to take
centre stage themselves, setting up community-level Capacity training on public policy by MEC, 2005
self-help groups to share experiences, mutual support
and anti-VAW strategies, not only as beneficiaries but These efforts ultimately influenced the drafting of a Lat-
as facilitators of other women’s processes of freeing in American protocol for the investigation and docu-
themselves from violence. The whole experience stood mentation of femicide.6
Honduran women in good stead after the military coup
of 28 June 2009, when women who had gathered to “[…] it is on the issue of femicide that both
demonstrate outside the president’s house were forc- CAWN and CEM-H have excelled in their
ibly removed with bullets and tear-gas; far from being advocacy work, particularly high-level
cowed, they immediately organised themselves as lobby in the UK, Spain and Belgium, with a
boomerang effect on Honduras. ”
Feminists in Resistance.
– Morna Macleod, project evaluator, 2012
“ The project will definitely have a long-term
impact on gender relations. Hundreds of
women have been empowered over the last Supporting advocacy
five years; they now know their rights and with authoritative research
[…] have the tools to stop being humiliated In October 2010 CAWN published a ground-break-
by men […] While clearly difficult to mea-
ing research report, Intersecting Violences, by Patricia
sure increases in self-esteem and self-worth,
Muñoz Cabrera. This review of feminist theories and de-
it is evident that there have been quantum
bates on violence against women and poverty in Latin
leaps which will not disappear on project
America significantly expanded the theoretical bases of
conclusion. ”
practical action against VAW. Translated into Spanish, it
— Morna Macleod, project evaluator, 2012
has been very helpful to CAWN’s partners and others. It
Femicide or feminicide, the most extreme form of VAW, was complemented in March 2011 by a toolkit by Mar-
has had even greater impunity in Honduras since the ilyn Thomson, which includes case studies of activities
coup, and it is an issue where CAWN and CEM-H have in several Latin American countries showing different
had highly visible success. Based on expert research approaches to addressing violence and discrimination
5
into femicide in 2010, advocacy-oriented events were and based on the issues of diversity which the report
held in Honduras, Brussels, Madrid and London, aimed identified. Both the report and the toolkit have been
particularly at influencing the European Parliament. very well received, especially among students.

5
Feminicidio: Un fenomeno global. De Lima a Madrid. Heinrich Böll Stiftung & CAWN, May 2010;
http://www.cawn.org/assets/Feminicidio%20de%20Lima%2 0a%20Madrid.pdf
6
http://www.un.org/en/women/endviolence/pdf/LatinAmericanProtocolForInvestigationOfFemicide.pdf
9
CAWN 25th Anniversary

CAWN’s 2008 study of aid effectiveness, The response It showed that Central American states lacked both
of international aid agencies to violence against wom- the political will and the resources to commit them-
en in Central America: the case of Honduras, is another selves to the eradication of VAW, and recommended a
example of CAWN’s support to women’s organisations prioritisation of better resourcing of women’s national
through combined research and advocacy, also knitting machineries and better gender equality monitoring
together the two main themes of our work. The global of regional governments’ development programmes,
financial crisis that erupted in 2008 increased concern among other things.
in CAWN that the ‘poverty agenda’ was diverting do-
nors’ attention and funding from Central America on Never give up!
the grounds that the region was ‘middle-income’, even
Sexual violence against women and the use of rape as a
though Nicaragua and Honduras had been classified
weapon of war against hundreds of indigenous women
as low-income countries vulnerable to the short-term
during the civil war in Guatemala were exposed in the
impacts of the crisis.
trial of Efraín Rios Montt in 2014. The Union of Guate-
The 2005 Paris Declaration’s criteria for aid effective- malan Women had campaigned long and hard since
ness, prioritising the funding of governments over civ- the 1996 peace accords for recognition of this viola-
il society organisations, hit international aid agencies tion of women’s rights and for reparation to be made
hard. As their own funding dried up they were forced to to the survivors. CAWN supported this campaign at a
scale back programmes or to leave the region, with seri- workshop we co-organised during the ‘Guatemala: No
ous consequences for the funding of women’s organisa- Going Back’ conference in London (May 2014), and
tions, such as cutbacks in essential services they offered with a postcard campaign during the Global Summit to
to women survivors of violence that were not provided End Sexual Violence in Conflict, also held in London in
by the state. CAWN’s research report highlighted how 2014. In March 2016, the judge ruling on these viola-
the financial crisis had exacerbated poverty and thus tions in the Sepur Zarco case7 in Guatemala declared:
intensified gender discrimination and gender violence. ‘We firmly believe in recognising the truth: it helps to

Conference ‘Guatemala: No Going Back!’. Photograph: Jess Hurd.

7
http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/features/2016/03/guatemala-justice-sepur-zarco-sex-slavery-victims-160303072107762.html

10
heal the wounds of the past, to raise consciousness so ity networks like it, have helped to strengthen Central
that such incidents must not be repeated.’ The wom- American feminism by supporting multiple struggles
en’s organisations, and the indigenous women them- waged by women in the region, and by working for
selves, who had fought so hard against the odds for changes in British and European development and aid
this result, thus finally won justice after 34 years. Their policy and practice towards greater gender equality in
victory shows the importance of never giving up the Central America.
fight for women’s rights.

In sum, CAWN’s journey together with all its partners
has been rewarding, exciting, sometimes frustrating,
sometimes terrifying. But, as it draws to a close, we
who have been part of that journey can feel that much
has been achieved. The strong presence of Central
American women speaking with conviction and elo-
quence at various sessions of the 2016 AWID Forum in
Brazil is itself evidence that CAWN, and other solidar-

carrying the banner: brave little pennants
crow’s-nest high and fluttering
for feminists in resistance before the wind
like your hair ribbons
when you were ten and running to school
well then no choice: when you were ten and scared to be late
you go forward, with your comrades when you were ten and running for joy
at times scarcely able to crawl with the wind tangled
you are an ant, clutching between hard jaws in your hair ribbons
like a huge sail, a leaf twice your size now
or a great yellow petal; at times you break into a run, banners held high
a mother cat, carrying her kittens and the throats of your comrades singing and
one after another from refuge to refuge – shouting
what is there you have not carried like birds
on your back and in your belly like thunder
caravel swollen with cargo? you are thousands and your strength is invincible

Mandy Macdonald, July 2009
Mandy was a co-director of CAWN 1995–2010

11
CAWN 25th Anniversary

CAWN CHRONOLOGY
A summary of key events and milestones for CAWN an
Highlights of CAWN activities Key developments in the region CAWN publications

1991 1992 1993/4
- CAWN founded after IWD confer- - CAWN organises conference ‘500 - Women’s Brigades from UK to Nicara-
ence ‘Breaking Chains – Making Links’, Years of Women’s Resistance in Central gua organised jointly by NSC, CAWN
celebrating women’s activism across America’. and ENN (Environmental Network for
Central America, organised by wom- - CAWN supports worldwide campaign Nicaragua).
en’s sections of London-based Central for Rigoberta Menchú to be awarded the - 1993: Plataforma de las Mujeres
America solidarity and human rights Nobel Peace Prize, and co-hosts London Salvadoreñas (Salvadorean Women’s
groups. event at which she spoke as winner. Platform) formed.
- Peace accord signed in El Salvador - 1994: In Nicaragua, autonomous,
Conference report, Breaking chains – between FMLN and government. How- multi-sectoral Group of Self-Convened
making links. CAWN’s first publication. ever, new constitution does not explicitly Women formed to draw up feminist
prohibit gender discrimination. agenda.
- In Nicaragua, Women’s Network - 1995: IV World Conference on Women
against Violence (Red de Mujeres con- takes place in Beijing leading to Beijing
tra la Violencia, RMCV), embracing 170 Platform for Action
organisations, founded.
Newsletter covering news and analy-
Report of quincentenary conference. sis of women’s activism in the region.

2004 2003
- A CAWN director visits partners in - UK tour for MEC representatives Mar-
Honduras and attends strategic con- tha Riveras and Noemi Flores, who also
sultation seminar in San Pedro Sula on spoke at ETI AGM.
combating exploitation & trafficking
- Central American Network of Wom-
and domestic violence.
en in Solidarity with Maquila Workers
- Close to 200 women murdered in publish a declaration opposing CAFTA
Honduras. Women’s Collective Against and pledged to monitor its impact,
Violence presents a motion in Hondu- particularly on women.
ran Congress to create a commission - World Tourism Organisation meeting
to investigate femicide. held in Costa Rica highlights evidence
of sexual exploitation of children by
foreign tourists.

CAWN discussion paper ‘Why
gender is important in ethical trade’
recommended gender training in
ETI and called for sex-disaggregat-
ed information, gender indicators
and an ETI gender policy/statement
of intent.

12
nd the women’s movement

1996 1998 1999
- CAWN obtains funding for project on - CAWN joins ETI as member of the - Mirta Kennedy (CEM-H) invited by
maquilas (assembly-line garment facto- NGO Caucus; facilitates involvement of CAWN to speak at Central America
ries) in Central America, developed in 4 workers from Central America in its Week conference in Bristol.
response to rapid regionwide spread first Southern consultation.
- CODEMUH (Honduran Women’s Col-
of female-dominated maquila em-
- Nicaraguan government recognises a lective) publishes report highlighting
ployment under exploitative working
trade union in a maquila factory (Fortex) increasing violence and abuses against
conditions. CAWN is a leader in this
for first time. Ethical Code developed by women maquila workers in Honduras.
campaigning field.
MEC adopted by the Labour Ministry.
- Study tour organised for Thelma del Special issue of CAWN Newsletter
Cid, labour rights lawyer in Guatemala, - Zoilamérica Narváez publicly accus-
es her stepfather, Daniel Ortega, the on women workers in the maquila
Santos Elvira Tocay Gómez, Guatema- industry
lan maquila worker, and Sandra Ramos, current president, of sexual abuse over
founder of María Elena Cuadra Wom- a 22-year period.
en’s Movement (MEC).
- Nicaraguan National Assembly passes Report, Challenging violence against
Law no. 230 criminalising violence in women, highlighting the work of
the home. the Nicaraguan Women’s Network
against VAW (CAWN/NSC)
- Peace Accord signed in Guatemala.

10th
anniversary!

2002 2001 2000
- CAWN and Bananalink organised a - CAWN’s 10th Anniversary! Sandra Ra- - CAWN awarded £140,000 grant
joint speaker tour for Lesbia Guerrero, mos (MEC) speaks at a public meeting from National Lottery Fund for 3-year
a maquila worker from MEC, and Clau- in the House of Commons on ethical programme of work on maquila issues
dia Blanco, from the Nicaraguan Rural trade and how it is viewed in Central in Central America.
Workers’ Association. America. - Speaker tour for Salvadorean activist
- CAWN members participate in a Latin - CAWN invited to lead the work of Rosibel Flores and Rosa Marina Esco-
American/Asian Women’s Exchange with the Gender Working Group of the ETI’s bar from Women in Solidarity (AMES),
representatives from 18 countries hosted NGO Caucus. an organisation working with maquila
by MEC in Nicaragua, sponsored by Asia - 6 national training workshops held on workers in Guatemala.
Monitor Resource Centre (Hong Kong), codes of conduct and corporate social - In a clampdown on unions in Hondu-
Grupo Factor X (Mexico) and Maquila responsibility (CSR) for 246 activists ras, 2 maquila factories closed down.
Solidarity Network (Canada). and workers in the maquila sector. There are also attacks on union activi-
- In Nicaragua, reform of penal code ties in Las Mercedes FTZ, Nicaragua.
Chapter in Corporate responsibility and introduction of Day of the Unborn - In Managua CAWN facilitated 3-day
and labour rights: codes of conduct Child threaten abortion rights. RMCV regional workshop on codes of conduct
in the global economy, ed. Ruth issues a series of demands to protect and independent monitoring.
Pearson et al. women’s reproductive rights. - CAWN organises consultation work-
shop on VAW in Nicaragua, developed
Report by New Academy of Busi- Two reports based on MEC’s action plan with organisations in the
ness and CAWN on DFID-funded research into health and safety region.
action research on codes of conduct and sexual/reproductive rights of
and workplace monitoring. women in the maquilas translated
and disseminated by CAWN with
Lottery funding.

13
Briefing paper, Gender, labour rights
and the Ethical Trading Initiative (ETI)

2005 2006 2007
CAWN obtains funding for 3-year Intensive discussion and strategic CAWN participates in Economic and
project on women’s economic literacy, planning for 5-year project on gen- Social Research Council seminar series
working with MEC. der-based violence with our partner in discussing women’s labour organisa-
Honduras, the Women’s Studies Centre tion in the informal economy.
Central America Free Trade Agreement
(Centro de Estudios de la Mujer–Hon-
(CAFTA) ratified by Honduras, El Salva- Law on Women’s Access to a Life Free
duras, CEM-H).
dor, Nicaragua, Guatemala, Costa Rica, of Violence passed in Mexico.
Dominican Republic and USA. Nicaragua’s National Assembly votes
to criminalise therapeutic abortion. CAWN A-Genda report. The Associ-
CAWN A-Genda report, Gender ation Agreement between the Euro-
19 July: Central America Feminist
perspectives and women’s action pean Union and Central America: its
Network hearing at the Inter-Amer-
on the Central American Free Trade potential impact on women’s lives in
ican Commission for Human Rights
Agreement Central America
denounces VAW in the region and
demand action on rise in femicide.

20th
anniversary!

2011 2012 2013
CAWN’s 20th anniversary! CEM-H CAWN receives EC grant for devel- December, CAWN and WIDE (Women
representatives speak at event on opment education project on wom- in Development Europe) organise sem-
women’s rights movement in Honduras en, social inclusion and the media. inar in Vienna with a keynote speaker
following the 2009 coup. Short film Conference ‘Images of Trafficked and from MEC.
about CAWN screened at the event. Exploited Women: the Role of the
In El Salvador, the case of ‘Beatriz’, a
Media and Campaigns in Women’s
young woman refused therapeutic abor-
Special anniversary CAWN Newsletter Empowerment’ held.
tion, shocks international community.
Speaker tour: Reyna Tejeda (CODE-
Toolkit for Intersecting Violences: MUH, Honduras) and Patricia Dyata 22 August: Nicaraguan Supreme
Putting intersectional analysis into (Sikhula Sonke, South Africa), share Court issues unanimous ruling declar-
practice lessons from the global South on ing that Law 779, the Integral Law
women’s resistance to austerity and against Violence toward Women, was
exploitation. constitutional.
Report, Feminicidio: un fenómeno
global de Lima a Madrid (CAWN/ CAWN sets up Urgent Action list.
CAWN blog, ‘Women, social inclu-
Heinrich Böll F.)
In Honduras, Women for Life Forum sion and the media’, posting views
demonstrated against repeated threats on exploitation of women and use of
to human rights defenders and killings media to advance women’s rights
of 28 young women, calling for full
Briefing, Maternal health, reproduc- government report on femicide. Briefing: Economic literacy: a tool for
tive rights and the criminalisation of
Sonia Contreras Tabora (27) sentenced women’s empowerment in Nicaragua
abortion in Central America
to 30 years’ prison in El Salvador on
grounds of miscarriage. Agrupación Ci- Research report: Exploitation and traf-
Trafficking of women in Central udadana (Citizens’ Association for the ficking of women: critiquing narratives
America & Mexico Decriminalisation of Abortion) called during the London Olympics’12.
for international support in challenging
her sentence and that of other victims
Briefing: The impact on women of of El Salvador’s extreme abortion laws. Briefing: Surviving as we can: women
the Association Agreement between in informal employment in Central
the European Union and Central America
America

14
2008 2009 Social reproduction and labour rights:
a case study of women workers in
Funding from Big Lottery Fund en- Seminar ‘Femicides in Central America’ Nicaragua
abled innovative project on challeng- held in London.
ing VAW and poverty with project
Honduran President Manuel Zelaya

2010
partner, CEM-H.
ousted in military coup, leading to
Guatemalan Congress passes law mass protests and severe repression.
against femicide and other forms of Feminists in Resistance formed to
CAWN participates in international
VAW. Soon after, first ever trial for protest against violations of women’s
networking workshop organised
femicide began. human rights.
by Women Working Worldwide,
Manchester.
Research report, The response of Intersecting Violences: a review of
international aid agencies to violence feminist theories and debates on vio-
against women in Central America: lence against women in Latin America
the case of Honduras

25th
anniversary!

2014 2015 2016
Visit of Morena Herrera, Director of CAWN continues supporting ACDA- CAWN continues pressing for action
ACDATEE, El Salvador, to spread TEE campaign with online petition to against the ban on abortion in El
awareness of ‘Las 17’ campaign seek- Salvadorean president and Legislative Salvador, targeting MEPs and other EU
ing release of women imprisoned for Assembly, asking them to grant par- actors.
presumed ‘crime’ of abortion. CAWN dons for Las 17.
CAWN and other groups organise
organised campaigns and petitions in
Sandra Ramos addresses a session at protest and vigil outside Honduran
support.
the World Travel Market on gender Embassy, London, following murder of
CAWN joins forces with ‘15M London equality in tourism. During her visit to Berta Cáceres.
Women’s Assembly, Amnesty Interna- UK, CAWN organises meetings with
CAWN participates in the third Festival
tional, My Belly is Mine’ and others to trade unions, CAWN members, stu-
of Choice.
organise a week-long Festival of Choice, dents and others.
marking International Day of Action for Berta Cáceres, a Lenca woman and
Second Festival of Choice held.
the Decriminalisation of Abortion. leader of the Civic Council of Popular
In Honduras, Garifuna women of the and Indigenous Organisations of Hon-
Guatemalan government declares Tornabe Network protest against duras (COPINH), assassinated.
‘state of prevention’ suspending eviction of families and destruction
constitutional rights in response to Police storm Korean-owned Sae A
of homes, part of a strategy to clear
community protests against mining. Tecnotex factory in the Tipitapa FTZ,
the long-established Garifuna people
Indigenous women take to the streets Nicaragua, against peaceful protests
from the vicinity of elite-owned tourism
to demand restoration of their rights. by workers.7 workers imprisoned with-
project, Indura Resort.
out trial. MEC takes up legal case for
July: President Daniel Ortega signs a their defence.
Decree reversing progress in the han- Briefing: Subverting sexism: using
dling of VAW and the legal interpreta- socio-dramas to socialise in Nicaragua
tion of femicide. Briefing, Women, water and tourism
in Costa Rica
Briefing: Women’s reproductive rights
Briefing: Women renegotiating power (English and Spanish)
paradigms in Central America: their
struggles in the second half of the
20th century Briefing: Empowerment approaches
in tourism: the voices of Nicaraguan
women (English and Spanish)
Briefing: Challenging violence against
women in Honduras
15
CAWN 25th Anniversary

3. CAWN’s evolution from network to charity
Over its 25-year lifespan, CAWN grew from a loose in- Britain and elsewhere. We also resolved early on that,
formal network of women operating on a shoestring to although we would welcome male support in any form,
a fully- fledged charity with a turnover of hundreds of we wanted to be and remain a women-only network.
thousands of pounds. How did this dramatic change
Our meetings often consisted of long discussions
affect the ethos and modus operandi of the organi-
about a huge range of issues – ways of tackling domes-
sation? In this section, we cast our minds back to our
tic violence, the most effective organising strategies,
small origins and reflect on the impact of our develop-
the influence of race and class in sexual politics, and
ment up to the present day.
a host of other burning topics! Our Newsletters were
produced on plain white paper with no frills. We knew
The early days – footloose
we did not want to replicate the work of large NGOs,
and fancy-free
and that raising funds for projects was not what we
CAWN was propelled into existence by the enthusi- wanted to do; but we did put out appeals in response
asm and passion of women, primarily resident in the to emergencies, through our Newsletters. We also
UK, who had had some contact with feminism, women’s managed to raise small amounts of money for CAWN
movements and/or Central American politics, people, from Oxfam, Christian Aid, the Maypole Trust and a few
culture or history. In those early days, we had no office; other charities. These grants amounted to just a few
we met in the homes of individual members. We spent thousand pounds, but that was enough to enable us
many hours discussing what should be our main focus to organise a few small-scale activities and to produce
and mission. We agreed that we wanted first and fore- and distribute information to our growing membership.
most to share information in the North about the strug- Although we could not afford to bring women speak-
gles of women in Central America. We were driven ers from the region, we often piggy-backed on speaker
by the desire simultaneously to nurture solidarity with tours arranged by other organisations and invited those
women in the global South and to inspire women in the speakers to address CAWN’s public meetings. We did
North and breathe new life into feminist movements in not have the resources to pay for hotel rooms for over-

Above: CAWN discussion forum ‘Trafficking and exploitation of women in Central America’, 2012

16
seas guests, but members of the Network opened their another 13 years or so. We immediately embarked on
homes and all of us chipped in to provide a warm wel- research aimed at producing an information pack on
come to women on tour from the region. the maquila sector in Central America, and the follow-
ing year we worked jointly with a sister organisation,
Looking back at this early period, it’s easy to feel nostal-
Women Working Worldwide, organising a speaker tour
gic, especially remembering the time and freedom we
in the UK and Spain for three women from the region
had to explore ideas and engage in lively discussions,
with links to the maquila industry. While we still relied
thereby keeping alive our own enthusiasm and passion.
heavily on the voluntary work of the CAWN steering
Besides attending meetings and protest marches, hav-
group and many volunteers who put in a lot of time
ing fun – dancing salsa, reading poetry, seeing films,
and voluntary effort, we could not have achieved these
listening to music from Central America – was also
successes without project funding. Both our activities
an important part of what we wanted to do together.
and our reach were broadened, and along with that our
Sharing good times like this helped to attract women
status as an organisation grew.
of all ages to join our network and participate in our
meetings and activities. However, we acknowledge that
this period in CAWN’s history also had its limitations.
We had to rely on the goodwill of other friendly or-
ganisations. Fortunately, many were willing and able to
support in small ways. For example, UNISON printed
our Newsletters, enabling us to make them look more
professional and to increase their circulation. Howev-
er, we knew we could not rely on this kind of support
indefinitely without our position remaining precarious.
Furthermore, our lack of status as an organisation limit-
ed our access to various funds which could potentially
have enhanced the benefits to Central American wom-
en in terms of exposure and influence. In order to ad- CAWN members and volunteers, 2007

dress these shortcomings, we decided to start looking
In order to increase access to funding and meet donor
around for more secure funding from a wider variety of
requirements, CAWN needed to obtain legal status.
sources. Our success in raising funds marked a turning
To do this we had to be clearer about our purpose as
point in the history of CAWN.
an organisation. After much discussion, we drew up a
constitution and articles of association, and became a
Increasing our reach and influence
not-for-profit company in 2000. Over ten years later we
Our first big fundraising success came in 1996 when a went through a similar process to register as a chari-
proposal to undertake a three-year programme of re- ty. Funding requirements also led us to formalise our
search and campaigning around the situation of work- structure: the loose steering group became a manage-
ers in the maquiladoras in Nicaragua, El Salvador and ment committee and later a Board of Trustees. We re-
Guatemala was approved. In October that year, we cruited new co-directors when some members moved
recruited our first paid employee as part-time Project on, and elected a chair for the committee and for legal
Coordinator. Subsequently we took on a full-time Proj- purposes, such as signing contracts. We also spent a
ect Coordinator and moved into office space with other lot of time discussing and agreeing a strategy and an-
Central America human rights organisations; later we nual business plans. As our finances grew we employed
gained access to greatly improved office facilities in the a part-time finance manager and one of the directors
offices of One World Action, where we remained for took on the role of line management to give greater

17
CAWN 25th Anniversary

support to the Coordinator, who ran the projects. With After the successful completion of the Maquila Project,
increased funding we employed a third member of staff CAWN went on to win a number of other large grants
as an Advocacy Officer for a couple of years. from prestigious sources, such as DFID’s Civil Society
Challenge Fund, the Big Lottery Fund and the Euro-
In 1998, CAWN was admitted as a member of the NGO
pean Union. This project funding enabled us to branch
Caucus group of the Ethical Trading Initiative (ETI), a
out, carry out research and develop our expertise in
tripartite organisation established by the then Labour
many areas, such as violence against women, femicide,
government bringing together civil society, trade
reproductive rights and the use of alternative media to
unions and businesses to adopt and implement codes
promote women’s rights. As a result, CAWN became
of conduct aimed at protecting the rights of workers
known as an ‘authority’ on gender issues in Central
in the UK and overseas. During the nine years of our
America in many spheres. Several times when project
membership of the ETI, we were very active on a num-
partners visited from Central America, we held meet-
ber of fronts. Soon after joining, we were asked to
ings at the Foreign Office to brief officials on the situa-
form a Gender Working Group within the NGO caucus
tion of women in the region, particularly after the 2009
to promote gender mainstreaming in the ETI and to
coup in Honduras. Our standing as experts on a variety
take a lead in developing gender-sensitive monitoring
of issues affecting Central American women’s rights
indicators. The fact that we were entrusted with such
extends beyond the UK. For instance, we played an
a task reflected not only the hard work we had put in
important role in briefing MEPs when the free trade
but also our position as one of the few organisations
EU–Central America Association Agreement was be-
representing women workers in the South within the
ing negotiated in 2005/6, and on other issues such as
ETI. CAWN was also involved in the ETI Impact Assess-
femicide.
ment Working Group, which conducted a collective risk
assessment pilot with women workers in Costa Rica.
The price paid
CAWN received a small amount of funding to partici-
pate in ETI and organise these different activities, and However, our increased potential for influence came
was successful in ensuring that women workers were with quite a heavy price. Lively debates on topical is-
promoted, appropriate methodologies included, and sues soon became replaced with tedious discussions
capacity building provided. Nonetheless, without the about logframes, budgets, monitoring indicators and
resources that enabled us to develop our expertise in financial reports for funders. Evening meetings starting
women workers’ rights, it is unlikely that we would have at 6 pm were wholly consumed by these matters and by
been given this opportunity to influence the policies 9 or 10 pm, when they ended, no one had any energy
and practice of the ETI. left to talk about anything else or even go out for a

CAWN members at the International seminar ‘Extreme forms of Violence against Women: Femicide in Mexico and Central America’,
organised by CAWN in 2009

18
drink! CAWN has always relied heavily on enthusiastic
volunteer support, and has attracted students keen to
get experience as interns. But as our meetings grew
longer and duller, the drop-out rate of new volunteers
soared, and staff did not have time to manage many
volunteers due to the heavy workload of running the
projects. Some of our potential as policy advocates was
lost, and this added to the Management Committee’s
workload. But we rose to the challenge and against the
odds were able to take forward a new way of working,
recruiting a few interns to take on more structured roles CAWN’s 20th Anniversary event, 2011
as communication or advocacy assistants, and soon
brought in eager, young women, recent graduates who worsened, the options to raise funds from the UK dried
were eager to learn and contribute to CAWN’s work. up and we were no longer able to get financial support,
This work experience enhanced their employability and even though we had drawn up several excellent proj-
they went on to interesting new jobs, one becoming ect proposals. Also, the EC changed the criteria for the
one of our valued co-directors. Development Fund grant we had previously enjoyed,
making it more difficult for small organisations to apply.
“ The CAWN/CEM-H ways of working are The EC is opening more calls for proposals directly in
exemplary, as they enhance a horizontal the region, giving a new option for funds that women’s
peer approach. CEM-H has been inspired organisations can apply for by themselves without a EU
by CAWN’s shared management committee, partner, but these involve a great deal of paperwork
and has adopted a tripartite co-director and more bureaucracy, which can be difficult for small
approach, to date with positive results. It organisations to manage.
has also fostered a shared involvement in
decision-making and greater transparency The spirit of solidarity lives on
in financial matters. Volunteers in CAWN
On balance, despite the downside to our success, many
expressed appreciation about being includ-
good things remained the same throughout CAWN’s
ed in CAWN’s discussions and felt valued:
lifetime. We remained a women-only network providing
I really like the fact that CAWN is so hori-
a unique space for women to meet and plan together
zontal, we are really listened to, my opinion
and feed on each other’s commitment to the cause of
is really valued; this gives me confidence
gender equality. We never allowed the demands of do-
(CAWN intern 8/7/2011).”
nors, Companies House or the Charity Commission
– Morna Macleod, project evaluator, 2012 to extinguish our zeal and enthusiasm. We have con-
tinued to attract young students and women from all
Our ability to raise project funding and provide valuable walks of life who have supported our work in myriad
networking and lobbying opportunities was obviously ways: joining our marches, carrying out research, con-
greatly appreciated by our Central American partners. tributing to Newsletters, working on funding propos-
For the most part, this enhanced our relations with als, helping to organise events, providing IT expertise,
them, but it sometimes put a strain on relations when and translating articles. Though CAWN will cease to
we had to take on the role of monitors and evaluators exist in its current form, the spirit of solidarity with our
of their work. Another slightly negative aspect was their Central American sisters, which still survives, must be
increasing tendency to view us as a source of funding nurtured and find new forms of expression in order to
rather than ‘sisters in struggle’. As the funding climate keep CAWN’s legacy alive.

19
CAWN 25th Anniversary

4. The legacy
The presence of a strong and visible women’s move- have always aimed to increase understanding and
ment In Central America has been critical in pressuris- raise awareness about the situation of women in the
ing Central American governments to bring in new region, especially through sharing information about
policies and legislation to tackle discrimination and women’s organisations and the issues that concern
violence against women. But in recent years there has them. The growth of the internet and social media has
been a backlash against women’s organisations in the enabled us to reach out much more widely, and our bi-
region and many policy advances are being eroded lingual website contains many of our reports and news
as women’s organisations come under attack by their items in Spanish, so that women in Latin America can
own governments. We are seeing women human rights access our information.
defenders attacked and assassinated because they
One of the priorities of our solidarity has been to en-
stand up for their rights and against impunity for the
sure that Central American women’s voices are heard in
perpetrators of violence. More than ever, international
the UK and elsewhere in Europe. We firmly believe that
solidarity is vital, but new forms need to be found for
our role is to give them a platform to speak for them-
activism to be effective in support of women’s struggles
selves. And so we have regularly organised speaker
in Central America.
tours enabling members of Central American women’s
organisations to come to the UK and meet with policy
The changing nature of solidarity
makers, activists, students and academics, women’s or-
As we have highlighted in the previous sections, ganisations and the general public. Our Central Ameri-
CAWN’s approach to solidarity in support of Cen- can visitors were regularly interviewed by journalists to
tral American women’s struggles has taken different get their messages across to a wider public. They met
forms. We have carried out ground-breaking research, with women’s organisations and NGOs, for instance
written articles and disseminated information though through the UK Gender and Development Network
our briefings, newsletters and reports, and by speak- (GADN), and exchanged experiences on approaches
ing at conferences, workshops and other events. We and issues of concern. Organising joint events with

Above: Women from CEM-H celebrating the Day for Elimination of Violence Against Women, 25 November 2008.

20
other UK solidarity groups has also been a very positive global strategies and targets. The new business model
way of sharing experiences, especially when women’s of development does not take account of the priori-
organisations from other regions have been involved, ties of women on the ground or the need to address
and has led to very rich exchanges. ideologies and power structures in the family, conser-
vative religious institutions and governments which are
CAWN has always received great solidarity from organ-
working against women’s rights. It is therefore crucial
isations in the UK, not only in the early days when first
that women’s organisations continue to have support
the Central American Human Rights Committees and
to make use of the international mechanisms available
then One World Action rented us office space and gave
to advocate for their rights.
other kinds of practical support. The need for interor-
ganisational solidarity continued; and in the past few
years, as our financial situation grew more difficult, the
solidarity shown by War on Want in offering us cheap
office space and technical support and getting involved
as a partner in our project was a lifeline for us, allowing
us to continue for a few more years and to complete
our very successful project ‘Women’s Rights, Social In-
clusion and the Media’.

The nature of activism has changed considerably since
we started 25 years ago without internet or e-mails. Campaigning and advocacy training with members of LAWRS, 2013

Campaigning is changing, increasingly carried out
Funding for women’s rights
through social media: blogs, Twitter and Facebook all
provide effective means to reach a very wide audience It is essential that women’s movements in Central
and get people to join campaigns. It is possible now to America continue to be supported and their voices
be active through these media without needing to re- heard in the international arena. The new aid regime
sort to an office or funding, and this gives us hope that has had a detrimental impact on women’s organisations
support for the struggles of women in Central America and movements in the region, with funding often going
will continue, if in a different manner in the future. The to large INGOs (international NGOs) and local wom-
widespread use of social media, the growing involve- en’s organisations then being subcontracted to deliver
ment of young women in international solidarity, and NGO projects. The change from a rights-based, partic-
the forging of links with women’s struggles in the UK ipatory approach to development to a more technical,
have redefined practical solidarity, multiplying its reach results-based approach has made it more difficult for
in a way we could not have imagined 25 years ago. small women’s organisations to fund their activities. This
funding model has had an adverse impact on autono-
The international agenda mous Central American women’s movements, making
it harder to run specialised services such as counselling
Since 1995 the Beijing Platform for Action has provid-
and legal support for women experiencing domestic
ed a comprehensive framework for advocacy actions by
violence, training in leadership skills, or advocacy to
women’s organisations seeking to press governments to
promote and defend women’s rights.
meet their commitments on women’s human rights. But
more recently the international agenda has adopted a In order to obtain funding, women’s organisations have
more technical and mechanistic gender mainstreaming had to become NGOs themselves and comply with
approach to women’s empowerment, and the global donor priorities. Small women’s organisations often do
commitments made two decades ago are still far from not have the infrastructure or expertise to meet donors’
being realised. In many countries in Central America, demands and have to buy in consultancy services when
women’s rights are being watered down as a result of they no longer have the support of INGOs. Instead of
the changing approach to development, with its narrow being supported to pursue their own demands, they

21
CAWN 25th Anniversary

have had to fit into the agendas of donors, who de- CAWN too has been a victim of the new funding re-
fine the priority issues in their criteria for project sup- gime, as DFID and other donors in the UK reduced the
port. Women’s organisations have had to take on more priority they gave to supporting Central America. The
staff to administer and implement these projects, and, change of emphasis was made clear when CAWN ap-
when short-term projects come to an end, funding cuts plied to a donor for continued support to the develop-
mean job losses and more unemployment for wom- ment education aspect of our solidarity work: we were
en. Women’s foundations, such as the Central America told that organising speaker tours to the UK and carry-
Women’s Fund, are an alternative source of support, ing out advocacy were not ‘good value for money’ and
providing small grants for women’s movements which did not benefit poor women in the region. We consider
are more flexible in their needs, supporting their ability this to be a very short-sighted position and it is a great
to react to short-term events, and also providing core regret that the value of international solidarity is no lon-
funding for longer-term strategies. But these grants ger appreciated or supported by major donors.
are very limited in amount and number and so only a
few organisations can be supported by them.

Final words
In the process of closing down the organisation, we have ensured that CAWN’s history is archived at
the Modern Records archive at Warwick University and is thus accessible to students and researchers.
Our publications will continue to be available through different sites on the internet, with signposting to
these on our Facebook page.
We are very sad that the information-sharing, analytical and influencing roles that CAWN has played
over the past 25 years can no longer continue, but we are hopeful that the many activists who have been
involved in our campaigns and activities over these years will take the learning and sharing to new cam-
paigns and actions in support of women’s rights in Latin America and more widely.

22
CAWN’s people
25 years of CAWN would not have been possible without the input of the following women in the UK:
apologies to anyone left off the list in error!

Current staff Megan Caine
Margarita Rebolledo Hernández Lizzette Robleto

Current Management Committee members Former Steering Group
Marilyn Thomson (Director & Chair) Veronica Campanile
Angela Hadjipateras (Director) Jo Rowlands
Amy North (Director) Amparo Coscolla
Olivia Kirkpatrick (Director & Company Secretary) Hazel Plunkett
Vicky Knox (Director) Sarah Kee
Virginia López Calvo (Adviser) Pauline Jones
Joan Neary
Current interns and volunteers Maria Black
Roos Saalbrink Ute Kowarzik
Alma Carballo Deb Lyttelton
Maisie Davies
Louise Morris Former volunteers and interns
Christina Katsianis Gloria Santos
Jennifer Browne
Former staff Laura Ouseley
Debbie Mace (Finance Officer and Company Secretary) Olivia Kirkpatrick
Katherine Ronderos (Programme Coordinator) Maria Maldonado
Virginia López Calvo (Programme Coordinator Ariel Safdie
Julie Porter (Advocacy Officer) Catherine Gallantine
Tessa McKenzie (Advocacy Officer) Katie Wicks
Jane Turner (Coordinator) Tara Ward
Rebeca Zuñiga-Hamlin (Coordinator) Gila Aispuro
Tiana Doht
Former directors Emily Gilloran
Samira Yussuf Liliana Cadao
Carla Rivero Ashley Erdman
Catherine Poyner Tess Hornsby-Smith
Meghan Field Jazmin Sol
Thais Bessa Eva Otero Candelera
Diana Daste Anne Rudolph
Yessica Alvarez-Manzano Ana Rebollar
Pamela Zaballa Girina Holland
Mandy Macdonald Anna Keene
Reineira Arguello Marianne Mollman
Marina Prieto-Carrón Mariana Cervantes
Susanna Fenn Susie Bascon
Elena Vila Moret

23
Acknowledgements
This final report was prepared by our team:
Marilyn Thomson, Angela Hadjipateras, Mandy Macdonald, Margarita Rebolledo Hernández
Copyediting: Mandy Macdonald
Design: Laia Bardón and Margarita Rebolledo Hernández
Printed by: Upstream Cooperative
Funded by: UNISON

Our thanks to CAWN donors and supporters!
In the early years we received a number of small grants from the following organisations
which funded our research, information packs, newsletters, study and speaker tours,
regional consultations and modest staff and office costs:
Global Fund for Women, Oxfam, Christian Aid, CAFOD, SCIAF, BOAG, Methodist
Relief and Development, Baring Foundation, UNISON, the Lipman Miliband Trust,
the Maypole Trust.

Larger grants for projects were received from major donors between 1999 and
2014:
The Lottery Community Fund, DFID Civil Society Challenge Fund, the Big Lottery,
Europe Aid, EC.

Since 2000 our volunteers have consistently raised small amounts of funding via the
Worker’s Beer Company scheme, which enabled our volunteers to go to music festivals
over the summer while working in their beer tents, enjoying the music and their hard-
earned cash going to CAWN.

We have launched several emergency appeals, raising over a thousand pounds from
the general public and CAWN supporters, to send to women’s groups following
hurricane Mitch in 1998, and a specific appeal to UNISON branches to support
women maquila worker’s unjustly fired from their jobs in Guatemala and following the
earthquake in El Salvador.

We have also received donations from CAWN supporters and generous gifts from
our Directors.

www.cawn.org