Power to Women in Peace Processes

Women's Organisations Cooperating in Realising Resolution 1325

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The Colombian women’s movement has been emphatic in resisting against the militarisation of civil life, says Laura Nepta of Corporación Humanas – Regional Center for Human Rights and Gender Justice.
FOTO: Hannah Rosenqvist

Help keep an eye on Colombia's women - urge to the international community

On November 2011 the Swedish International Development Agency held a training program on Resolution 1325 with participants from Colombia, Democratic Republic of Congo, Georgia, Liberia and South Sudan. Considering that Colombia has struggled with an ongoing armed conflict for more than five decades it was startling to find the misguided notion that the country is in a post-conflict situation.

This led to the question how the country was portrayed, how foreign policy can distort reality and how the international community could get a broader perspective of the country’s situation. A suggestion revealed by listening to the participants is to keep in mind past experiences.

One of the program’s mentors mentioned how it is common for people to think of their country’s conflict as incomparable. Coming from Colombia this is usually the case, there is a tendency to perceive the conflict as dauntingly unique. Although it is impossible to deny that war dynamics vary depending on the context, it has to be said that there are in fact many common denominators.

Women ar victims of forced prostitution

As in other settings the Colombian armed conflict exacerbates the violence committed against women and girls. Sexual violence is used as a weapon of war through practices such as rape, forced prostitution and sexual slavery. Women are also the main victims of internal displacement and are forced to seek new ways to earn family income due to the frequent adjustment from rural to urban areas.

Also in relation to other countries women in Colombia have a fundamental role in the development of initiatives intended for peace building. In a country in which to some extent violence has been normalized, women have made concrete efforts to document the differentiated effects of the armed conflict. They have persisted on actions aimed at facilitating an epistolary dialogue between conflict parties and at achieving a humanitarian exchange of prisoners of war. They have also taken significant measures to denounce violations of human rights perpetrated by legal and illegal armed actors, to fight against impunity and to claim the right to truth, justice and reparation without hesitating on the risks this implies.

The path to peace solely through military force

In short, different experiences can certainly share a common ground and therefore it is relevant for the international community, which has influence on the national level, to observe Colombia’s current situation and particularly how this has an effect over the life of women within the framework of past lessons. Just to mention one of the aspects that can be taken into account is the policy of attaining security and for that matter the path to peace solely through the use of military force into the extent of assigning a higher budget for war than for education.

The Colombian women’s movement has been emphatic in resisting against the militarization of civil life and on the importance of a negotiated solution to the armed conflict that allows the participation of all sectors of society, particularly those who have been historically excluded. Regarding peace, the movement has been clear to state the need of a positive peace that takes into account social justice, equal opportunities, and a gender perspective.

Laura Nepta Silva
Corporación Humanas – Regional Center for Human Rights and Gender Justice