What's the role of Afro-Colombian and Colombian women in the FARC peace talks?
Colombian women have faced internal displacement, militarization, sexual violence, and the forced recruitment of their children into the conflict. Their input is vital at the negotiating table, says a WOLA blogger.
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The women of northern Cauca have gained prominence after being featured in the PBS Women, War and Peace episode “The War We are Living.” It shows the efforts of several groups, including the Association of Women of Northern Cauca (ASOM) and the Black Communities Process (PCN), in which women are defending the territorial rights of their communities from illegal gold mining to keep their families from being displaced and building economic self-sufficiency for their children. In the Catholic Dioceses along the Pacific Coast (Chocó, Nariño, Cauca, and Valle del Cauca), nuns and lay women work together with priests to assist the victims of violence and aerial fumigation. In Cali, Afro-Colombian trade unionists like Agripina Hurtado are working to improve the labor rights and working conditions of Afro-Colombian sugarcane cutters and other laborers. In Colombia’s cities and shantytowns, the women leaders of AFRODES are organizing to find effective solutions for displaced families’ security and economic needs.Skip to next paragraph
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A report released on Nov. 13, 2012, by the PCN documents how crimes committed against Afro-Colombian women are rampant. Despite Colombia’s de jure adherence to international commitments and progressive domestic laws, in practice the human rights situation for Afro-Colombians, and women in particular, remains dire. The militarization of Afro-Colombian areas has led to increased incidents of sexual violence, exploitation, and abuse against women. While the number of homicides decreased in Buenaventura from 2003 until 2010, the killing of women increased. Death threats and murders of Afro-Colombian women advocates are becoming more prevalent as women are upping their public profiles in defense of Afro-Colombian rights. Emblematic of this disturbing trend are the murders of Buenaventura’s Doña Chila in 2008 and Medellin’s Ana Fabricia Cordoba in 2011.
Violence continues to take place throughout Afro-Colombian territories and areas of refuge at an alarming rate. In the Agua Blanca District of Cali, a receptor site for Afro-Colombians displaced from the Pacific Coast, six Afro-Colombian women and their children, who are beneficiaries of provisional protective measures from the Inter-American Commission of Human Rights, were declared “military objectives” by illegal armed groups. On Oct. 28, 2012, men grabbed three-year-old Joiner Estiven Banguera and used him for target practice until community members begged them to stop. They let him go after screaming at her “old frog (Colombian slang for informant) we’ll kill you and your family.” In the past two weeks, this illegal armed group engaged in shoot outs with rivals in this neighborhood and threatened to kill several other women, including pregnant Ana Gloria Cabeza, and their children. On Nov. 12, this illegal group forcibly recruited a female minor and is forcing her to participate in degrading acts. In Buenaventura, Tumaco, Quibdó, and the outskirts of Cartagena, Bogota and Medellin, we find similar situations where women have to defend themselves and their children from illegal armed groups and criminal gangs.
For a successful peace process in Colombia, women’s participation must be guaranteed. Their input is required not just at the negotiating table where plans are made, but also in the post-conflict implementation of the agreement. While an agreement is in the works, now is the time for the international community to support the voices and actions of brave Afro-Colombian women activists in Colombia. They will be the ones to ensure that what comes out of the peace process is reality based and has the best chance for success. WOLA continues to support their efforts to strengthen the role of women in Colombian society as their country moves toward a peace agreement.
– Gimena Sanchez-Garzoli is Senior Associate for the Andes Program at the Washington Office on Latin America.
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