Creating Spaces for Hope: How USAID works with local communities to address gender-based violence in Honduras

USAID is committed to empowering communities and supporting survivors of gender-based violence. Casa Refugio Lucecitas in San Pedro Sula, Honduras, is one such initiative that's making a difference. Through partnerships with local organizations and initiatives like this, we're providing essential support and resources to those in need.

Casa Refugio Lucecitas’ location in San Pedro Sula, Honduras, is secret. This safe haven exclusively serves women seeking refuge — often accompanied by their young children — and offers them a wide range of free support, from legal advice to psychological care, education, and childcare. Men are not allowed entry. Even the police officers providing security are women.

And the shelter’s importance cannot be understated — it is one of only a handful of safe houses for women experiencing violence in Honduras.

Honduran women face one of the highest rates of gender-based violence in the Western Hemisphere. In early 2023, a USAID local survey revealed nearly 65% of women and girls aged 12 to 29 had encountered sexual violence, and 70% have experienced domestic violence.

But USAID is doing more than defining the problem — we are working hand-in-hand with local women’s networks to identify gender-based violence cases, provide legal guidance to victims, and support women shelters like Casa Refugio Lucecitas.

In August 2023, San Pedro Sula Mayor Roberto Contreras opened Casa Refugio Lucesitas with the support of USAID’s Office of Transition Initiatives, as part of a local initiative to support women and children who are survivors of violence and other forms of domestic abuse. This support is part of USAID’s strategy in the country to strengthen community systems to prevent and respond to gender-based violence.

A month later, Fanny* arrived, seeking refuge with her children and only the clothes on their backs. The shelter provided them with essential items and a space to feel safe again. Now that her family is out of harm’s way, Fanny is eager to embrace a new start.

“My dream is to work. May God give me life so that I can support [my family] and help them to succeed. Those are my dreams.” — Fanny

Kimberly P.,* the administrator of Casa Refugio Lucecitas, emphasized the personalized care survivors like Fanny receive.

“Each person is different. Most of them come because of domestic violence, but each person comes with their own different problems. Some come nervous, others may feel calm because they have been relieved of a burden. Others are scared, others are sad. That’s why attention is one of the main services we provide to support them.” — Kimberly

According to the Gender Equality Observatory for Latin America and the Caribbean of the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean, Honduras has the highest rate of femicide of the 19 countries and territories in Latin America that reported the number of femicides or gender-related killings of women in 2022, affecting 6 per 100,000 women.

In the Honduran capital of Tegucigalpa, the Pedregal neighborhood is infamously known as a “hot spot” due to its elevated rates of violence, particularly against women and girls.

Addressing gender-based violence in such areas is doubly complicated by the presence of gangs. Yet committed healthcare providers like Dr. Flor R.* at El Pedregal’s Women’s Clinic persist in offering vital services to survivors.

“It becomes a challenge for ourselves, the community, and our volunteers, because even as healthcare providers, we’ve been victims of violence.” 

— Dr. Flor R.

Nonetheless, she and her colleagues provide essential services and support to gender-based violence survivors, guiding them through their emotional and medical needs.

USAID supports both the Pedregal Women’s Clinic and Casa Refugio Lucecitas as part of the Agency’s comprehensive approach to combating gender-based violence as a public health issue.

USAID’s efforts also include partnering with civil society organizations to train volunteers to provide counseling on women’s basic rights. Known as promotoras comunitarias, these volunteers — many of them survivors of domestic violence themselves — play a pivotal role in raising awareness, referring potential cases of gender-based violence to service providers, and educating women about their rights.

Since November 2022, more than 1,620 survivors of gender-based violence in Honduras have accessed medical, legal, and psychological support through assistance from the 141 promotoras comunitarias trained by USAID.

“Groups are more powerful than individuals…we work with female community leaders so that they can refer cases to us, because there’s no one who knows the community better than its own members.”— Marta*, a psychologist at a government-run health facility in San Pedro Sula.

USAID also works with organizations like Centro Ciudad Mujer, a safe space and center for holistic services that receives about five to seven clients a day.

“Many women initially come for [routine] services,” said Marta. “But once they are here, we do screenings for violence so we can identify who is experiencing [gender-based violence] and provide the necessary care.”

By providing much-needed rehabilitation and resources to these community spaces, USAID strengthens the ability of municipal government partners to care for survivors of gender-based violence and ensures that they can effectively link local response services to national networks of care.

Through a holistic approach that includes healthcare, community engagement, and advocacy, USAID supports local partners in Honduras as they work tirelessly to challenge the culture of violence and provide hope for a safer future.

This work is vital in Honduras, where there’s a pervasive culture of impunity for violence against women.

“There is very little investigation [by the police]. The level of impunity is 95% and we have not been able to lower it. This is why we fight, so that every woman has access to justice.” — Ana Cruz, director of Honduras’ first shelter for women, Calidad de Vida in Tegucigalpa

*Names used with permission and shortened for safety reasons.