Honduras: María Esther Ruiz Ortega

Peace is only possible with women's active and real participation.

— María Esther Ruiz Ortega

María Esther Ruiz, a feminist from rural Honduras, had to act as mother for her brothers and sisters since 1961, when she was 11. She was educated by a religious order called the Pasionistas. She transferred her knowledge to other women in the groups that she created. She was attacked by religious traditionalists and even by the government. She understood that if peasant women were to improve their situation, they needed not only education, but also independence. For that reason, the New Hope Women's Association promotes economic projects.

“My father was a rural teacher and my mother a housewife. My father became an alcoholic; I experienced domestic violence during my childhood. He mistreated my mother, both physically and psychologically. I could not stand it, so–when I was only four years old–I took my little dress and went away to my grandmother's and my aunt's house. And I think that was the beginning. That marked my life.” The one speaking is María Esther Ruiz, a feminist from rural Honduras. Her mother thought she was mentally retarded because she was so silent, but her father registered her at school when she was nine years old. Shortly afterwards, he was murdered for being an active member of the Liberal Party. Two years later, her mother began a new relationship, and María Esther had to take care of her grandmother and her three brothers and sisters. Her aunt was already dead. She worked in a tobacco factory and, on Sundays, she washed clothes and took her brothers and sister to mass. The priests, who belonged to the Pasionista order, were impressed by that girl and gave her a religious and social education, even sending her on training courses in other countries. From that moment on, María Esther began writing down her ideas, to organizing women's groups for the creation of a new consciousness to defend the rights of the peasant women, to fight against sexism and subservience. But that new consciousness generated clashes with the more traditional priests. One of them, with the support of governmental representatives, got rid of these women and expelled them from the parish church. They regarded María Esther as a communist trying to snatch men's power. She founded, in 1998, along with 200 other women, the New Hope Women's Association. It facilitates access to education and to economic activities that allow women to act independently and to be treated with dignity.

The New Hope Women's Association