I recently received a communication from one of our sister organizations in Colombia, LIMPAL. In communities where violence by military and paramilitary groups is a constant threat, LIMPAL works to support displaced women and their families with grassroots projects and to promote their human rights at the national and international level. Across Colombia, more than 3 million people are displaced, with Afro-Colombian and Indigenous communities disproportionately affected.
(This year for Mother’s Day, we profiled a group of mothers living in Ciudad Porfia, a community of displaced people a few hours outside of Bogotá. You can read it here.)
Below is LIMPAL’s recent newsletter. The original is in Spanish, and we have provided an English translation at the bottom. I particularly want to call attention to this powerful statement excerpted from their newsletter:
We women resist, and we do not lose hope that it is possible to have a peaceful country with social justice. Our women are still threatened and persecuted by the patriarchal power and the horrors of the war; only for the simple fact that they take part in community projects, they foster peace and cultivate food for their sons and daughters, they are women who lead processes, they build networks in order to reconstruct their lives after being displaced.
*Picture credit: MADRE
LIMPAL Bulletin: October 2008
Assassinated leaders, sexual violence and of gender
There is no truce in this war! We women resist, and we do not lose hope that it is possible to have a peaceful country with social justice. Our women are still threatened and persecuted by the patriarchal power and the horrors of the war; only for the simple fact that they take part in community projects, they foster peace and cultivate food for their sons and daughters, they are women who lead processes, they build networks in order to reconstruct their lives after being displaced
During the last four years, there have been 89 murders of leaders of displaced communities such as Yolanda Izquierdo, who led the Parceleros de Cordoba which claimed their right to land from Salvatore Mancuso and his allies. In this context, women directors and leaders of movements or groups of victims that came demanding the truth, justice and reparations, were also murdered: Osiris Yakeline Amaya, of the Wayuu Indigenous community, was raped and murdered in the guajira; Judith Vergara, director of Redepaz and supporter of the victims in the city of Medellin; Carmen Cecilia Santana union leader of the Antiochian Uraba and the list continues –
We women continue to live in exile: an exile that lives in us! Without justice, without peace and with fear. The complex ties between the armed actor and agents of the Colombian state persist. How are we to trust in the system? How do we trust in our neighbor? The violence, discrimination and the stigma continue in the day to day lives of the communities.
Increased insecurity and fear has become in one of the strategies to disrupt the community processes; and women’s rights—social rights or human rights—are not advancing at all.
Women’s bodies and the armed conflict—an atrocious combination.
Women’s bodies have become a symbol of war for the armed actors, who use them as one more strategy to defeat the enemy.
The absence of state capacity and mechanisms to address matters of gender-based violence is one of the reasons why victims do not report these types of crimes. This situation does not allow for adequate understanding of how problematic sexual violence is in the armed conflict in Colombia, as demonstrated by the underreporting of cases.
The women affected by displacement must not only overcome the grave issues of violence and discrimination that they face, but they also have to build a new life, in a territory that is unknown to many, where they cannot count on social networks of support that will provide access to the bare minimum conditions of survival. This situation continually worsens because of the deterioration of family relations which is a product of the displacement, in the midst of the pain due to the death of one their loved ones.
The world must know that in Colombia women’s rights are violated. Women that live in fear and do not denounce it.
And the displacement continues…
According to the study carried out by ACNUR and Ciase, “the situation of the displaced women in Bogotá is something that cannot be ignored.” Fifty-two percent of displaced women are the heads of their households, and they make up close to 60% of the participation in the informal sector of the economy. The participation of women in the health system according to the government is 52.4% subsidized, 4.8% pay out of pocket, and 1% do not have any health services.
The education situation is precarious and it relates to the challenges of new conditions that must be addressed through the active participation of the state and society, who are responsible for taking care of the demands of the people affected by displacement—but what is the answer of the state to this dilemma? While the state does not recognize the importance of adequately and efficiently investigating cases of gender-based violence, in particular sexual violence in armed conflict, it will continue to fail to fulfill the obligations that it has committed to in the international sphere. It will continue to feed itself on impunity and to increase violations of women’s human rights.
Previous entries in the 16 Days 16 Entries Series:
- How Much is a Woman’s Life Worth?
- “One of the Worst Places in the World to Be a Woman”
- On World AIDS Day, Support the Full Range of Women's Human Rights
- Feminist Storytelling
- Defenders Protecting Human Rights with their Lives
- Zimbabwean Women Demand
- Violence against Indigenous Women
- Strange (and Dangerous) Bedfellows
- 16 Days, 16 Entries