The Cali workshop was conducted in the Semi-rural town of Palmira in the department of Valle del Cauca on Wednesday, February 8th. The curiosity surrounding the workshop was palpable as women poured in not only from Palmira but also nearby locations such as Candelaria, Yumbo, Buga, Tulua, Jamundi, Andalucia and Buenventura. Media presence filled the room as camera crews and journalists from local news and radio stations came to cover the workshop and form part of the group.
The workshop proved to be a space of learning in the fact that out of the 20 participants, only 3 women –some who work in women's organizations- had prior knowledge of a UNSCR 1325 or 1820. Upon this realization, the workshop took a tone of teaching and awareness raising as the primary objective of the meeting.
As the 3 pillars of the resolution were discussed, women listened carefully and took notes. It seemed that talk of UN SC Resolution 1325 gave women hope and the fact that they could play a role in its implementation gave them an extra impulse to learn as much as they could.
The public service announcements were also well received by the participants. Women agreed that if announcements were broadcast it would push the issue and allow for information to arrive directly to the people. Furthermore, these announcements would facilitate the message not only to the urban populations but rural populations that are hard to reach and also to members of the local government that may be uninformed about the resolution.
Beyond a space of learning it was also a space of revelation as participants began to discuss and respond to peace and security issues in their communities. Displacement was a reoccurring concern faced directly by women in the group or through working with women who had been displaced in attempt to escape violence caused by the armed conflict and/or sexual violence perpetrated by armed actors. “Women have been attacked, murdered and raped by paramilitaries actors and nothing is done about it because they have impunity, “ one woman shouted. Another participant explained that, “attacking a women is like a sport, men go in the streets and throw acid on women.” Women are dismayed by the fact that their persecutors can be out of jail within an hour.
Martha Quintero, member of the Red Nacional de Mujeres, reported that in a Balboa, Cauca, lesbian women are being killed by paramilitary groups because of their sexual orientation. Women have been found dead with their fingernails removed and their nipples cut off.
Another interesting element to the workshop was the shock women displayed when it was announced that Colombia was selected by the Special Representative of the Security General on sexual violence in conflict as a priority country because of its high level of sexual violence. The majority of women found this difficult to accept. Although they suffer and live with violence they did not realize that the scale of sexual violence in Colombia was so high that it had received international attention from the SRSG office and was on the list among countries such as the Congo.
A young female journalist was astonished because she believed that violence in Mexico was much worse than in Colombia. She had no idea that women were suffering to the extent that they were in her own country and community and had only heard the stories told in the workshop for the first time. She said, “as part of the press I feel like I should know all about the horrors that take place in my community, but I don't …just like some of the Germans who supported Hitler but didn't know of the horrors he committed.”
Overall, the participants found the workshop useful. There were of course many doubts and concerns as to how these resolutions can be implemented national or locally and lobbied to local governments who are said to be uninterested in sexual violence.
However, the first step is to raise women's awareness of their rights and tools that are available to them such as UN SCR 1325 and 1820 because the resolution cannot be pushed for if women are not aware that it exists.
GNWP's Report of Buenaventura Workshop
The Buenaventura workshop was held on Thursday, February 10th. Women trickled in during the first hour of the workshop until the room was filled with 31 women. The entirely Afro-Colombian group came from the city of Buenaventura and nearby neighborhoods such as San Francisco, Anmucic, Rural-Triana and Las Americas.
The meeting opened up with introductions and then moved into the presentation of UN SCR 1325. When asked if any of the women had ever heard of R1325 only one woman in the group, who had been a participant of the prior workshop in Palmira the day before, had heard of the resolution. So in fact, none of the women had prior knowledge of its existence. Yet, this is not to say that the women had not been organizing and advocating for better conditions in their communities. Most of the women in the workshop belong to organizations that deal with gender based violence while others work to capacitate female farmers and advocate for their protection from violence in the countryside.
As the presentation of the UN SCR 1325 began, it became evident that the majority of the women did not understand the mechanisms of the United Nations or even the reason for its conception. Therefore, a quick summary of the United Nations was explained by Rosa Emilia Salamanca of CIASE and then International Coordinator of GNWP, Mavic Cabrera, explained the passing of resolution 1325 in 2000 and its most important pillars: the demand for protection of women on issues involving sexual violence in countries of armed conflict, increased involvement of women's participation in decision making and resolution of conflicts and women's participation in the prevention of future armed conflicts.
After the presentation, the women broke into groups with handouts on R1325 and its complimentary resolutions 1820, 1888, 1889 and 1960 to review and discuss if and how these resolutions could be helpful to them and their communities.
During feedback there was a mix of emotions ranging from excitement to anger and then to doubt. Women were first excited about the resolutions. Finally there was a law speaking to their situation that could benefit them and maybe put pressure on the government to confront gender based violence. Plus, the thought that they could participate in peace talks was an exciting aspect of the resolution. “Yet, it's 2012 and we don't know anything about this resolution,” one woman said. Some women shouted angrily, “Why don't we know anything about this resolution!”
The revelation that the women had no prior knowledge of the resolution's existence brought a cast of doubt about its effectiveness and applicability. Participants who work in organizations that deal specifically with gender based violence became pessimistic about how such an important resolution that seemed so far away could arrive to help poor women of the barrio and rural women of the campo if they themselves had known nothing about it and especially since it had not helped them yet. They felt as if the resolution had been hidden from them.
Their reservations were understandable. The women of Buenaventura are directly affected by the armed conflict and have to survive in the midst of it daily. Many participants had lost family members due to the conflict while others had been displaced from their rural communities because of it or because of land reforms that violently forced them off their land. Another woman reported that her 16 year-old stepson was allegedly murdered by a paramilitary actor.
“The violence in Buenaventura is getting worse and worse. Women don't have protection. If we are attacked, we are afraid to make a complaint. We have no support that's why we stay quiet. For us this law is only on paper!”
Although their doubts weighed heavily on the workshop, it served as important feedback and demonstrates how disconnected international policies are from action on the ground and how national and local authorities are from the realities women confront daily in the face of armed conflict.
Mavic, stressed to the women, “Although you may feel that this resolution is only on paper and can't change your lives, it is a starting point and we have to first become aware. If we think like this we are not at a good starting point.”
And both presenters made clear that “this tool (R1325) is not magic….we have to continue to fight for our rights….the situation will not change overnight but there is hope in coming together!”
Group work on 1325 and its supporting Resolution
By the end of the workshop the women went from uninformed to informed and empowered with a renewed desire to continue their fight for gender justice and work together to find strategies to push for implementation of Resolution 1325 in their local communities.
Report from Colombia: Media Advocacy Project
Hello GNWP network!
Tomorrow we will begin our workshops on UNSR 1325 & 1820 in Palmira, Cali.
The workshops will begin with a presentation on Colombia's peace and security situation and its impact on women. We will follow with a presentation on UN SCR 1325 and 1820 and then we will hear from the local women's organizations and the work they have been doing in their communities thus far in respect to women, peace and security.
During this workshop the participants will listen to the public service announcements and provide feedback on how these public service announcements can raise awareness in their communities.
Participants of the workshop will be women from local organizations and will also include underrepresented groups from Afro-Colombian and indigenous populations.
The local media will be present and local authorities so not only do we hope to raise awareness among the women but among the local authorities who can be instrumental in developing a local action plan on UN SCR 1325 and 1820.
Mavic & Rosa stuck at the airport!
Yesterday, Mavic and I finally met up with our colleague from CIASE to start our travel to Pasto. Unfortunately, the weather got in the way of our plans and we were not able to begin the workshops. Hopefully, we will be able to conduct the workshops this weekend or next Monday. We are eager to meet with the women coming from such communities as Ipialis and Tumaco where the armed conflict has a strong presence and affects the daily lives of the people in these towns. There is said to be heavy drug trafficking in Tumaco and the presence of FARC and paramilitary actors make it difficult to enter these communities and also for women to talk about peace and security. In fact, according to the Latin American Herald Tribune, there was a bomb planted on a motorcycle that killed 11 people and injured more than 30 others just a few days ago in Tumaco. Hence, all the more initiative to meet with these women to hear their stories and put advocacy in action in the face of conflict. Read more about the bombing here.