Women as central agents for peacebuilding in Colombia

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

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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.

Colombia suffers for more than 50 years an internal armed conflict, which still produces and reproduces inequitable conditions in resource distribution, rights recognition and access to political power. The diversity of armed participants involved, combined with the intensity and cruelty that has characterized it, have left and stills provokes as collateral damage thousands of victims of human rights violations and breaches of international humanitarian law. In addition to traditional actors, human rights are also violated by new forms of violence. An example is the recent upcoming of criminal gangs, frequently originated on former armed groups like the paramilitary.

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.

According to official figures, during the period between 1985 and 2016 a total of 7,809,143 people have been registered as victims of the internal armed conflict; 3,876,481 are women, 3,872,273 are men, 58,718 with no gender information and 1,671 as LGBTI groups. In the same period, a total of 6,849,277 Colombians have been documented as victims of forced displacement; 3,497,202 are women, 3,319,439 are men, 31,089 with no gender information and 1,547 as LGBTI groups; additionally, 13,332 women and 1,144 men have been victims of sexual violence directly related to the armed conflicts. Even though these numbers are really high, it is just the top of the iceberg as 73% of women do not report these crimes. However, during the elaboration process of the Truth Commission & Memory of Colombian women Report of the Ruta Pacifica de las Mujeres organization, the investigators affirm that 123 out of the 1.000 women interviewed have declared suffering sexual violence and torture, which for this organisation is a pretty high number.

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.

For the first time in almost a century of internal armed conflict and after countless attempts to reach a peace agreement, this process seems to have high possibilities of achieving success. After the public announcement on bilateral ceasefire and hostilities, it is expected that by the upcoming months it will come to a final agreement. However, it will still be subjected to a referendum process. Moreover, since women for decades have been directly affected by the armed conflict (displacement, violence etc.), Colombian society and its institutions will face several challenges to protect them, repair them and enhance their participation as key actors in conflict prevention, resolution and peace building.

The persistent struggle of women, has had a great impact on the judicial and legislative arenas leading to laws protecting women. An example of this is the Auto 092 of 2008; which should guarantee the protection of the fundamental rights of women victimized through displacement caused by the armed conflict. Other relevant laws such as law 1257 of 2008 (which guarantees the right of women to live free from violence), law 1719 of 2014 (on Access to Justice and Other Matters for Victims of Sexual Violence and Especially of Sexual Violence Related to the Armed Conflict) and law 1448 of 2011 (known as Victims and Land Restitution Law) are quite often considered as the most important achievements in history for protecting womens rights. Nevertheless, once these laws have passed the different legal procedures, public institutions face different obstacles such as lack of law enforcement, lack of information to citizens, lack of institution capacity due to budget issues, amongst other reasons. The facts show an evident lack of law implementation and the difficulties to include a concrete differential approach where women could become central agents of change while public policies are enforced.

Under an International perspective, United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325 (UNSCR 1325) urges the enhancement of womens 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 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 womens 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 Pacfica de Mujeres and 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 womens 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, ICCOs 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.
Women as central agents for peacebuilding in Colombia

Target group

- Directly: 3.561 women and 725 hombres will beneficiate.
- Indirecty: 20.000 people will be empowered.


More than 300 grass-root women organizations will be trained and empowered in order to adquired advocacy capacity and be able to prevent violence against women in their communities.

Goals overview

- Political space (Other)
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