Creating an inclusive peace process in Colombia

The internal armed conflict has affected the lives of millions of Colombians in various ways. Among the internally displaced persons a majority are women, and many women and girls have also been sexually abused by different armed groups. A project funded by the FBA’s 1325 grants aims to increase women’s participation and include a gender perspective in the ongoing peace process in Colombia.

In November 2016 the Colombian government and the FARC guerrilla signed a historical peace agreement after more than fifty years of armed conflict. During the negotiation process, different women organizations participated and advocated to include a gender perspective in the peace agreement. As a result, more than hundred measures with a gender approach were included in the final agreement.

In 2017 the Swedish organization Forum Syd and its Colombian partner Casa de la Memoria initiated the project “Quipu Warmi: Building a peaceful future”, funded by the FBA’s 1325 grants. The project is implemented in the Huila department, a region extremely affected by the armed conflict in Colombia, and promotes the inclusion of a gender perspective in the regional implementation of the peace agreement.

Three local women organizations are participating in the project; Mujeres Tejedoras, an organization for indigenous women, Asociación de Mujeres por un Nuevo Paraíso, an organization for women farmers, and Asociación Gastronómica de Mujeres Desplazadas Pa’Degustar, an organization for women that have become internally displaced or victims of sexual violence because of the war.

The women from the three organizations have identified several barriers for women in Huila to participate in the peace process. There is widespread physical and verbal violence against women and a negative perception towards women who participate in public spheres. Women in the region are also traditionally responsible for domestic and care work. The vast majority of this work is unpaid and there is an incompatibility between the domestic work hours and the meeting schedules of organizations working with the regional implementation of the peace agreement.

The women from the three organizations have also developed three strategies to overcome these barriers: the strengthening of women, of organizations, and of communication and advocacy skills.

The strategy for empowering women of Huila consists of self-support meetings, leadership training and the development of advocacy skills. This has resulted in improved self-perception about women’s leadership, as well as improved knowledge about human rights and women rights, and about the differential impacts of armed conflict on women compared to men.
– We have also participated in activities to know and analyze several issues of the peace agreement, recognizing the important role that women have on its implementation, based on our rights, says María Ruth, leader of the Asociación Gastronómica de Mujeres Desplazadas Pa’Degustar.

The strategy for strengthening the three organizations consists of the development of specific capacity-building plans for each organization, administrative and financial support, and meetings that allow women from different organizations to meet and establish networks.
– I highlight as very valuable the exchange of experiences among women that are peasant, indigenous and victims of the civil war, with different ways of conceiving the world, but with a common goal of achieving that our rights are recognized and guaranteed, says Luz Nidia Finscué, member of the Mujeres Tejedoras.

The communication and advocacy strategy consists of identifying the three organizations’ mission and vision. It also encompasses facilitating meetings between the women organizations, duty bearers and stakeholders, where the women organizations can express their concerns and promote their initiatives and proposals.

The Asociación de Mujeres por un Nuevo Paraíso, with the project’s support, was able to submit a request to the National Land Agency with the purpose of buying a land area to develop a collective livelihood project.
– We are now able to actually demand our right to own a land, to have a place where we can work and have our own project, says Yamile, a member of the organization.

Photo: Casa de la Memoria, Forum Syd

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Saba Nowzari

Saba Nowzari is expert on women, peace and security, Mali and the Middle East

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