Victoria Obando Valverde (Local Human Rights Tulip Winner 2019) - Equal rights for LGBTI people
As an activist, transwoman and former political prisoner in Nicaragua, everything has been twice as hard for Victoria Obando Valverde. She is discriminated against and receives death threats. But whatever life throws at her, she seems unstoppable. ‘We have the right to live. Without life, we have nothing,’ says Victoria.
Anyone who knows her says she has always been like this. A warrior. From a young age she learned to demand respect. She opposed the discrimination she faced for being a transgender girl. Later, she participated in movements defending equal rights for the LGBTI community.
LGBTI and human rights
In 2013 Victoria founded DEIGEORSEX (Movement for Gender Identity Rights and Sexual Orientation). Its first project was aimed at eradicating discrimination against Nicaragua’s LGBTI population. She also supported the National AIDS Commission CONISIDA. In 2015, Victoria joined the national LGBTI Round Table in Nicaragua, a platform bringing together organisations that defend sexual diversity rights. There she followed human rights training.
In April 2018, Victoria joined the protests against Daniel Ortega’s government. When the students of UNAN-Managua decided to occupy their campus, Victoria joined them. Once there, she gained the respect of the others. Given her gift for leadership and experience as an activist, she quickly became the leader of the student protest movement (UNAN). Victoria actively participated in their marches. This led to her receiving many threats and offensive messages on social media.
On 29 August 2018, the national police accused her publicly of terrorism, homicide, arson, kidnapping and robbery. They arrested her and transferred her to a jail known as ‘La Modelo’, where she was placed with male prisoners, despite being a transsexual woman. From prison, she sent a letter to the outside world about torture and discrimination against transgender people. The letter went viral. Nine months and 10 days later she was released as part of an amnesty law. After her release, she continued her protest.
The Human Rights Tulip Award
On 5 December 2019 Victoria received the Human Rights Tulip from Peter-Derrek Hof, the Dutch ambassador to five countries including Costa Rica and Nicaragua. The ceremony took place in Costa Rica’s capital San José.
‘I know that those who advocate for human rights often run a great personal risk. I’m convinced that these very people have an incredible power to generate change and better the lives of other people. For Victoria, the risk and the price of her activism was jail, but she emerged more convinced than ever of her objective: to generate a change in Nicaragua, transforming it into a society where human rights and justice flourish. Victoria represents a message of peace, of hope, of unity for her country Nicaragua. Prison did not stop her. She went on with her battle in spite of the risks,’ said Peter Derrek Hof.
Victoria received her award wearing remarkable clothes: her blue prison uniform. As a mini protest on behalf of all the political prisoners who remain in jail.
Victoria: ‘This award means so much, for us transwomen, and for the LGBTI community in general. It reflects recognition of that great effort, which isn’t always seen. It’s a struggle to build a country. They have to keep fighting, every day at every moment and wherever they are, we have to keep fighting. It’s like the painful process of a butterfly’s metamorphosis, she suffers, and it hurts her, but when she emerges from her cocoon, she flies.