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Women as Central Agents for Peacebuilding in Colombia, Ruta

Countries:
Start project:
  • 2016
Donors:
  • Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Partners:
  • Ruta pacífica de mujeres - Colombia

ICCO and Ruta Pacifica de Mujeres will develop a strategy of communication, advocacy and violence prevention, to promote egalitarian participation of women and men in post agreement - peace building scenario in Colombia.

In Colombia, discrimination and exclusion of women from social, economic, cultural and political life is widespread and encouraged by accepted social constructs and structural factors. In this context, on a daily basis, women suffer violations of their rights at alarming levels, and also violence against them in public and private spaces. Women and men face different types of violence in different regions in the context of different conflict dynamics.

There is a clear relation between gender-based violence (GBV), human trafficking and the internal armed conflict in Colombia. The context of conflict creates certain conditions, including for example recruitment, forced displacement, constant migration, structural conditions of poverty, vulnerability of ethnic groups and drug trafficking, which create an ideal scenario for human trafficking with criminal networks involved. Children, adolescents and women have been recruited by illegal armed groups to be combatants or informants, to cultivate illegal drugs or to be exploited in prostitution.

The armed violence impacts the entire population, but specifically armed conflict generates differentiated and disproportionate impact on women from different sectors of society. Looking at violence against women in the Colombian conflict, we can analyse it in terms of gender and with the notions of fear, power, honour, and sexuality, emphasizing on the different kinds of gender systems present in Colombia. Machismo can be seen as one of the gender systems influencing the patterns and rules, but also violence in the Colombian society. Moral systems such as the patriarchal system construct the cultural norms and values.

In this context, women face greater risk of being victims of forced displacement and sexual violence; being exploited and enslaved to perform domestic chores to illegal groups, and being stripped of their land and heritage. Women membership in social and community organisations of defence of human rights, their personal or family relationships with members of legal or illegal armed groups, or as victims of gender based violence as indigenous, black or rural women in the middle of an armed conflict can be considered as risk factors where their own lives could be in danger because of the role they have played in one context or another across the critical conflict zones in the country.

A peace negotiation process between the government and the FARC (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, the biggest and oldest guerrilla group in the country) began in Cuba in 2012. They have now reached agreements in all points of the negotiation agenda and the Peace Agreement paper was approved by the Congress of Colombia. Colombian women organisations including the local partners of this NAP project have jointly prepared gender based proposals for this agenda (Summit Women and Peace in Colombia, 2013) and participated in the peace talks (Gender Sub-Commission) to ensure a sound gender perspective in the final peace agreement.

Under an International perspective, United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325 (UNSCR 1325) urges the enhancement of women participation and representation in conflict prevention, management and resolution. It promises to incorporate a gender perspective into peacekeeping operations and to ensure the protection and respect of the human rights of women and girls, in particular against rape and other forms of sexual abuse in armed conflict contexts.

Also, The Government of the Kingdom of The Netherlands has promoted for several years the implementation of a UNSCR 1325 National Action Plan. The Dutch Government has formed a platform for cooperation with over 50 Dutch civil society organisations and knowledge institutions, with the joint overall objective of contributing to an enabling environment for women participation and empowerment in conflict and post-conflict environments, so they can meaningfully participate in conflict prevention, resolution, peace building, protection, relief and recovery .

ICCO Cooperation, as one of the platform members, has participated in the previous process (2013-2016) that took place in Colombia, jointly with Cordaid and local partner organisations Mencoldes, PCS, Ruta Pacifica de Mujeres, Red Nacional de Mujeres. These experiences have helped ICCO to understand the importance of creating strategic local cooperation beyond merely distributing funds amongst the different organisations in Colombia. As a result, ICCO has developed programmes aimed at strengthening women and their organisations capacities to have meaningful participation and to advocate for women rights.

These experiences taken together have helped to understand the importance of creating a strategic collaboration beyond just funds distribution amongst the different organisations. In this regard, ICCO expertise in designing, delivering and monitoring joint programmes with CSOs, Dutch NGOs, local/national governments and other stakeholders and the possibility to continue some of the processes that were realized under NAP II, will be a key factor to increase the impact of NAP III in Colombia.

Project Updates

The story about Dunia

My name is Dunia Ester León Fajardo, I am 56 years old, I am a Back grassroots woman, feminist by conviction, pacifist and antimilitarist. I am single, and with a daughter I have brought up with great effort, who finished her undergraduate degree today. Since I was little, I have had to work hard. My mother, a black, simple woman, worked as a cleaner at a school. When I was 9, I had to take care of my 7 year old brother, and my 4 year old sister, who was constantly ill because she suffered from asthma. Until I was 15, all the housework was on my shoulders. It was a difficult time when poverty hit us hard. We lived in a slum, with no water nor electricity, in a wooden house that got wetter inside than outside when it rained. Since its floor was soil, it absorbed the rain that fell, and that made my sister get yet sicker. When I was 16, I finished high school and started working at a store during weekends. Though my religious vocation, I met a group of women and we formed a Christian community where we studied theology of liberation, and I realized that poverty was not a gift, but a situation generated by those who rule us; that women did not have to be third class citizens and that we had rights… That is when my feminism and my rebellion against a system that oppressed impoverished people started. I traded being a religious woman, for being a community leader in my area. I decided to study at a public university, and I chose the only nocturnal undergraduate degree there was, to be able to work during the day. I am a professional public accountant, but an activist and a leader by conviction. II. TIMELINE: BEFORE, DURING AND AFTER NAP III Although I have worked in favour of women’s rights and against violence since I was young, I think the work was very limited due to the lack of some conceptual tools that restricted action. Since its first phase, NAP helped me to deepen into topics and laws that are crucial for women’s participation, beyond their issues, such as the fact that peace is a right and that women can contribute to its construction. Subjects as Resolution 1325 allowed me to better understand the transcendental topic of peacebuilding. During NAP, I had the opportunity to work on the Resolution 1325 with many organizations, local as well as from other municipalities. I participated, along other women, in the construction of the Programas de Desarrollo con Enfoque Territorial –PEDT (Development Plans with Territorial Perspective), with important contributions coming from our experience on how we wanted peace and security to be. I exerted influence over local governments. We worked in a creative, committed and constant way, for the peace plebiscite on the implementation of the Peace Agreement to be approved. We carried out advocacy processes looking for the local governments included our proposals in the development plans and performed monitoring and follow ups for this to happen. We also worked on protection and women’s self-care plans, at the personal as well as the organizational level. In this sense, we carried out some processes to build local and departmental agendas, where peace and security were the central aspects within the feminist self-care and self-protection components. III. MAIN TRANSFORMATIONS Being more involved in the peacebuilding process and the work with women victims of armed conflict allowed me to work with families and communities on the importance of building peace from within them so they could achieve community transformations. We carried out discussion and negotiation processes regarding problems that were formerly solved violently by the families and communities. Pacifism became a referent for families, communities and organizations. I feel I have reaffirmed the feminist and pacifist paths, and that these paths rule my everyday life, and allow me to focus on the problems in a calmer way, looking for viable solutions. My participation in NAP has left many lessons learnt, among which I highlight: - A greater conviction that pacifism is the only option to build peace. - Women are crucial for these processes; however, their contributions and leadership continue being made invisible. - The country is not prepared to change the way it deals with conflicts, but this cannot prevent us from working hard in our organizations. - The high corruption and impunity rates, and the delicate situation regarding threats and killings of leaders, are frightening. - The relief we felt when the Peace Agreement was signed, has been interrupted by the reconfiguration of conflicts and the upsurge of a war we thought had been overcome. - We have local and national governments who do not care about peace. - We must insist in choosing people who will truly lead the country towards welfare. IV. DREAMS I love dreaming. - I dream of a country where we can truly live peacefully; with suitable rulers who look for the community’s welfare. - Women participating in decision-making spaces; this would increase the opportunities for a better life. - My organization continuing its hard work for peace, with and for women, where I can continue being engaged with all my being. - Continuing the work with women of the municipalities, monitoring and overseen the implementation of the Peace Agreement. It does not matter that governments are not interested; what is important is that we are.

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