A community struggle against an outside entity is all consuming for those involved. They are the people of the land but are forced to use all their energy, time and money in repelling something that is not welcome by them for the gain of outsiders.
For such women human rights defenders living in remote communities there is very little space for expression. In fact, very little space exists for anything else outside the constant struggle and attempt to maintain some sort of normalcy in the family environment.
So, when you give the opportunity to such women and ask them to try to illustrate their life experiences the results can be remarkable. That’s exactly what happened when the human rights NGO Protection International with funding from the Canadian Embassy in Bangkok selected 20 Thai women human rights defenders from around Thailand and asked them to produce small quilts that illustrate their life, their stories and their struggles.
The idea was inspired by the colourful, three-dimensional quilts known as arpilleras produced in South America. Arpilleras became particularly significant when made by groups of women (also known as arpilleristas) in Chile during the military dictatorship (1973–90) of Augusto Pinochet where they depicted scenes of hardship and violence that the many women experienced during the dictatorship due to impoverished living conditions and government repression.
Not only does this activity produce a hand-made testimony of atrocities, and a shared space for expression, but it also strengthens bonds between themselves and others in a similar situation.