Paraguay: Nilda Estigarribia

During the dictatorship, torture had its most visible identification in men, while the faces of women were evidenced for giving humanitarian assistance in prisons, hospitals and cemeteries.

— Nilda Estigarribia

Nilda Estigarribia grew up fighting against the abuses committed by the Paraguayan military dictatorship led by General Alfredo Stroessner (1954-1989). She was part of the only organization for the defense of human rights to exist during that period. She was under observation by the military forces. Several times, she escaped becoming a victim of repression. She was constantly banging on the doors of police stations and jail cells to find and assist torture victims. The Dictatorship ended–but her activism did not. There are still many tasks pending.

Nilda Estigarribia discovered militancy as an adolescent in the Youth Club of a censured political party, during the toughest period of the Paraguayan military dictatorship (1954-1989). She knew then that the fight for social causes and human rights would always be a priority for her. She was born in the countryside, part of a large middle-class family. She got a medical degree in 1966. As a student, she did her residency in public hospitals, where she was greatly affected by the people she encountered, who were in enormous need. In the meantime, she continued her militancy in the Club Avalón–most of whose members were sympathizers of the Authentic Radical Liberal Party (Plra) or other opponents of the dictatorial government of Alfredo Stroessner. At that time, every meeting ended up being suppressed–and with a number of people being imprisoned and tortured. That was the end for several members of Nilda's club: “I saw how my companions went to jail.” She and other female fellows were saved from being captured. “I was in charge of giving direct assistance to the imprisoned, tortured and ill.” The dictatorial regime ended. Nilda kept on being active in the Authentic Radical Liberal Party, and was elected as a member of Parliament for the period of 1993-1998. She presided over the committees for Health and Human Rights and approved policies for social benefit. Nowadays, she is a member of the Comisión Nacional de Derechos Humanos, the Paraguayan National Commission for Human Rights (Conadeh).

Comisión Nacional de Derechos Humanos (Conadeh)