By Eléonore Veillet Chowdhury
The plane is small, with exactly two propellers and two wings. It is flying us back to Bogotá from the city of Quibdó, where GNWP held its third Localization of the Resolution 1325 workshop in Colombia. The first workshop took place on September 17 and 18 in Cali, the biggest city in the
Valle of Cauca district. What is striking about Cali is not its size, but its obvious concern with security. Barbwire, metal bars and heavy fences guard stores, houses, hotels, and apartment buildings alike. In Popayán, where our second workshop was held, there are fewer metal bars. However, the army—young boys in uniforms carrying machine guns—takes over the streets of the city in the evening and through the night; Popayán is the capital of the Cauca department, one of the regions in Colombia most affected by armed conflict. Quibdó, the location for the third workshop, is the capital city of the poorest department in Colombia. It beats Cali in terms of protective fences, and yet somehow, it manages to be an incredibly welcoming city. Whether in Cali, Popayán, Quibdó or Bogotá, it is impossible to miss that security is of major concern in Colombia. And yet Colombia does not have a National Action Plan for the implementation of the principal Women, Peace and Security resolutions adopted by the UN Security Council: Resolution 1325 and the supporting Resolutions 1820, 1888, 1889 and 1960.
In Cali, Popayán, and Quibdó, the objective of the GNWP workshop was the same: to share with local authorities the provisions of the Resolutions 1325 and 1820 so that they could evaluate if and how these international laws on Women, Peace and Security could be integrated into local policies and local development plans. A bottom-up approach to the implementation of Resolution 1325, these work
shops in Colombia were part of a GNWP project that enables local actors to examine the applicability and use of Resolution 1325 to address the specific peace and security concerns in their communities with a particular focus on women’s participation in decision-making and all peace processes; and sexual violence prevention. Through a series of presentations and small group work, the various local government representatives identified the provisions of Resolution 1325 that would reinforce or fill gaps in their own development plans.
In Cali, representatives from the Palmira, Cali and Buenaventura municipalities found that their municipalities already had a number of policies that dealt with the three pillars of Resolution 1325: women’s participation in decision-making positions and peacebuilding processes, the prevention of violence and human rights abuses against women and girls, and the protection of women and women victims of all kinds of violence. However, in spite of the existing local and national policies, local governance emphasized that domestic violence and violence among armed groups continue to affect women disproportionally. Elizabeth Ortega Carvajal, from the Palmira municipality, stressed the importance of empowering women and girls to be active participants in security forces, though she specified: “We want our women in uniforms, but not with guns.” Mavic Cabrera-Balleza, our own International Coordinator, added that our purpose as civil society working on Women, Peace and Security is never to make war safe for women, but to do away with war and armed conflict altogether. At the end of the workshop, participants listed their personal and municipal commitments. The three municipalities represented—Palmiras, Buenaventura, and Cali—decided to develop an Action Plan for the implementation of Resolution 1325 and the supporting resolutions (1829, 1888, 1889, 1960) at the departmental level. Local Authorities from Palmira play a coordinating role. They committed to convoke the “Grupo de 8” or 8 mayors of the Valle del Cauca department to assist a capacity-building workshop on Resolution 1325 and the supporting resolutions. Local authorities from Valle del Cauca are on their way to developing a departmental Action Plan for the implementation of Resolution 1325 and the supporting resolutions with the participation of their mayors, local civil society groups and their communities.
Following the workshop in Cali, we headed to the city of Popayán, where we were welcomed by Stella Millán de Ortega, wife of Governor Temístocles Ortega Narváez. The recently elected governor opened the workshop by confirming that the new administrative structure of the department will include a Women’s Office that will be responsible for implementing gender policies. A dozen municipalities were represented. While only one government official has ever heard of Resolution 1325 prior to the workshop, all found that their development plans included the central provisions of the resolution. However, when describing their respective municipalities, almost all the participants lamented that there is a huge gap between the policies in place and the actual situation for women living in their communities. Officials from the Argelia Mejor and Miranda municipalities spoke of the endurance of a culture of silence when it comes to sexual violence. Women seldom denounce out of fear and shame, and if and when they do, they are blamed for the abuse they experienced. Gloria Ines Ducuara, a representative from the civil society organization Red Municipal de Mujeres de Caldono, added that women often did not report domestic violence because of financial dependence on their partners. “If women are financially independent,” Gloria explained, “they will not put up with domestic violence and abuse.” Like in Cali, there was a clear consensus among the local authorities present that it is key to have the support of the mayors in this work of diffusion of international resolutions on Women, Peace and Security, so as to be able to encourage and track their implementations at the local level. The mayors, they explained, control the resources and have the most power in the municipalities. Florencia is an example of a municipality where the mayor already supports initiatives dealing with gender equality. In municipalities where there is no such support, the local authorities committed to engaging their mayors, fellow officials and communities in
discussion of the Resolutions 1325 and 1820, as well as on Women, Peace and Security issues in general. The workshop concluded with the agreement that each municipality will conduct awareness raising workshops on the Resolution 1325 in November, the month of the Civic Day of Colombian Women and the International day of Non-violence Against Women.
In Quibdó, local officials from ten municipalities in the Chocó department participated in the Localization workshop. The workshop took place right in the middle of the three-week long San Pacho—a yearly holiday celebrating San Pacho or St. Francis of Assisi, Quibdó’s patron saint. The festive atmosphere did not in any way attenuate the local officials’ concerns regarding the harsh realities faced by their communities, particularly by women in their municipalities. Like in Cali and Popayán, the limited resources and the importance of the participation of the mayors in the discussion were discussed at length. Wilman Sanchez, from the Rio Iro, emphasized that even if resources are scarce and the mayors may be initially uncooperative, it is not an excuse to “remain with our arms crossed.” Luis Alfredo Garces Robledo, from Carmen del Darien, added that it is indeed the local officials mandate to make sure that the rights of each and every individual are respected, and there is greater women’s participation in governance and in high-level positions in generals. Like in Cali and Popayán, there was barely any awareness of Resolution 1325 on the part of local officials participating. The lack of Internet access to look directly at the Development Plans made the simultaneous close-reading of the development plans and Resolution 1325 difficult. Nonetheless, all officials committed to read closely their own Development Plans as a follow-up to the workshop. While all together in Quibdó, they decided to plan a forum that would regroup mayors, other municipal officials and civil society to discuss Resolution 1325 and the supporting resolutions. Gloria Luna Rivillas, from the Red de Mujeres Chocoanas (Chocó Women’s Network), stressed the importance of including officials from the diverse communities in the Chocó department. In the predominantly Afro-Colombian region, it is crucial for the indigenous communities to take part in the work around the Resolution 1325. More than in any other regions, the synergy between women representatives from civil society and the local authorities of Chocó was palpable throughout the workshop. Together, women from the Chocó Women’s Network and local authorities epxressed that with work at the local level—a bottom-up approach to the integration and implementation of Resolution 1325—they hope to better the situation for women in their communities. The first step will be the multiplication of workshops on 1325 and the extensive diffusion of information on Resolution 1325 in their offices and their communities. Chocó Women’s Network will ensure that regular communication among the local officials continues and that commitments are fulfilled.
It is evening, and we have left Chocó with commitments of our own: to stay in contact as well, and to put together a packet of materials on Resolution 1325 and the supporting resolutions in Spanish with our members and partners here in Colombia, Red Nacional de Mujeres (National Women’s Network) and Corporación de Investigación y Acción Social y Económica-CIASE (Corporation for Research and Social and Economic Action). We will also support projects of local authorities that aim for the better awareness and more effective implementation of Resolution 1325 at the local level, by endorsing their proposals in writing and by sharing lists of potential donors supportive of projects on Women, Peace and Security. These commitments we have made to participants in the other workshops as well, in Popayán and in Cali. As the Global Network of Women Peacebuilders, we promise to fulfill these commitments to the best of our ability.
We thank the Folke Bernadotte Academy and Cordaid for supporting this project.
By Mavic Cabrera Balleza
Andrea was eight years old when she lost her father in 1992 during a clash between Colombian military and combatants from the Ejército de Liberación Nacional (ELN) (National Liberation Army), one of the two major rebel groups in Colombia. Andrea is just one of the millions of victims of the 50-year old armed conflict in Colombia that has caused the death of more than 600,000 people; the displacement of more than three million people; and the vast destruction and loss of properties.
Andrea now works for a women’s organization that helps women and their families displaced by the continuing armed conflict. She attended one of the workshops on the localization of UN Security Council Resolutions (UNSCR) 1325 and 1820 on Women, Peace and Security in September 2012 organized by the Global Network of Women Peacebuilders (GNWP) and the Colombian Working Group for the Implementation of UNSCR 1325, in different cities and municipalities in Colombia. The localization workshops brought together governors, mayors, indigenous leaders, grassroots women leaders, and local police and military officers. The focus of the localization workshops was on the implementation of the Security Council resolutions in conflict-affected communities. In light of the ongoing peace talks between the Colombian Government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), Andrea asked how she and other victims of the war could use the Security Council resolutions to seek justice.
The answer to Andrea’s question came at a panel discussion on the participation of women in the Colombian peace talks organized on November 2, 2012 by GNWP, Cordaid and the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF).
At the panel discussion, Adalgiza Charria Quintero, a representative of the Red Nacional de Mujeres, a national coalition of women’s groups in Colombia that works on women’s human rights and peace and justice issues, invoked the principles of Resolution 1325 and outlined the following demands of Colombian women in the ongoing peace talks:
1) the observance of a ceasefire during the peace process;
2) the representation of women among the principal negotiators (1st tier) of the Government and the FARC; (The Colombian peace negotiation has three tiers.)
3) truth, justice and reparations for victims, specifically for victims of sexual violence and guarantees of non-repetition; and
4) the continuation of the peace talks until an agreement is reached.
Katherine Ronderos, the second speaker at the panel discussion representing WILPF Colombia called for the inclusion of women in the country teams of Cuba, Chile, Norway and Venezuela who are mediating the peace talks. She also urged the Colombian government to develop a National Action Plan on UNSCR 1325 and implement the recommendations of the Special Representative of the Secretary General on Sexual Violence in Conflict who visited Colombia in May 2012. In addition, she urged the negotiators and everyone involved in the negotiations to include the demands and needs of women and strengthen and open local consultation processes for the full participation of women. Finally, she called on the international community to provide funding for women’s advocacy for political participation at the local level. She also demanded the security and protection of women human rights defenders.
UNSCR 1325 is an international law that mandates all UN Member States to guarantee women’s full and equal participation in peace negotiations and all peace processes. It also demands the prevention of conflict and the protection of women and girls’ rights and their protection from sexual violence.
In their advocacy for the implementation of UNSCR 1325, Colombian women’s groups also demand the full and effective implementation of the Victims Law 1448 of 2011. Under this law, the Colombian government acknowledges the impact of the armed conflict, particularly the loss of land and the human rights abuses committed against the citizens. It demands the return of stolen or abandoned land to its rightful owners as well as the comprehensive reparations for victims and survivors of human rights abuses committed in the context of armed conflict.
The absence of women in the peace talks is a key concern expressed not only by women’s organizations but also by international policy makers and UN officials. Another concern raised by many groups is the Colombian government’s refusal to observe a ceasefire. Prior to the peace talks, President Manuel Santos stated that military operations against the FARC will continue until an agreement has been reached.
The Colombian government and the FARC agreed on the following as the main agenda of their ongoing negotiation: rural development; guarantees for the exercise of political opposition and citizen participation; the end of armed conflict; drug trafficking; and the rights of the victims of the conflict. Women’s organizations and other civil society actors have sent letters to UN Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson and UN Undersecretary-General and UN Women Executive Director Michelle Bachelet expressing their concerns about women’s absence in the Colombian peace talks as well as in other peace processes in different parts of the world.
There are also reports that negotiations with ELN could take place soon. This will strengthen the efforts to achieve sustainable peace of Colombia, as the two main guerrilla groups could establish a clear path to peaceful transformation, demobilization and reintegration.
The ongoing peace talks have raised Andrea’s hopes and those of many other Colombians that there might yet be peace and justice after all.
Panel Discussion Notes
By Selam Tesfaye
The objective of this panel discussion was to create a forum for dialogue with women civil society and government representatives from the Republic of South Sudan to share their insights and experiences in
relation to the 2012 Addis Ababa Cooperation Agreement between the Republic of South Sudan and the Republic of Sudan (North Sudan); and how the Cooperation Agreement impacts the future of women in the country including the UNSCR 1325 National Action Planning process. The meeting was organized by the Permanent Mission of Sweden, the Permanent Mission of Liechtenstein, the Global Network of Women Peacebuilders (GNWP) and Operation 1325 in partnership with the Institute for Inclusive Security. The panelists for the events were H.E. Jersa Kide, Deputy Chair, National Elections Commission and Member of Women’s Leaders Coalition; Ms. Margaret Mathiang, National Constitutional Review Commission and Member of Women’s Leaders Coalition; and Ms. Rita Martin, Director of EVE Organization for Women and Development.
By: Dawn Thomas
Sexual violence in Colombia continues to be an invisible crime. The high prevalence of sexual violence against women in the context of the armed conflict is exacerbated due to the lack of government attention and the high levels of impunity it allows for its perpetrators. The Colombian Constitutional Court reported that paramilitary actors, government forces and guerrilla groups inflict 90% of the sexual assaults on women. In the face of these findings, the Colombian government has shown little will to prevent sexual violence or combat impunity. Too often, cases against perpetrators of sexual violence brought before the criminal courts linger in formal investigations or trial phases. This creates increasing distrust in the judicial system and stops many women from reporting attacks. Hence, women do not feel supported by the national and local government and women become silent. The women who participated in the workshops echoed these findings with their personal stories. Members of gender-based organizations stated that sexual violence against women has become commonplace in their communities. Paramilitary actors continually rape women and local authorities remain reluctant and generally uninterested in cases of sexual violence and may even be involved in hiding facts to obscure justice. Consequently, internal displacement is an ongoing challenge for local women living near conflict activity who often leave their communities to escape its negative effects.
Still No National Action Plan for Colombia
Although, Colombia is a member state of the United Nations, it has not adopted a NAP for R1325, as many of our workshops participants put it, at the moment the resolution in Colombia only exists on paper. This may be a contributing factor as to why many local authorities and the majority of the women in our workshops had no knowledge of 1325. However, in spite of government inaction, gender-based organizations and civil society groups are still pushing for the implementation of the resolution. One way to do this would be for local governments to integrate elements of the international law into the development plans for the local communities. The implementation of R1325, along with true enforcement of local laws already in place that address sexual violence, displacement and the restitution of land, could have enormous potential to remedy the issues women are facing because of armed conflict and serve as a proper redress for women victims. However, pushing local governments to act on behalf of women’s issues may prove to be difficult according to many of our participants. Nonetheless it is not impossible. Actually, Rosa Emilia of CIASE, completed a workshop in Montes de Maria last month and the local authorities have agreed to include R1325 in the local plans and programs of the local government and in educational and cultural bureaus as well. So while it may be difficult it can still become a reality. This is a major accomplishment.
Every Drop Makes a River
Realistically, advocating for these laws faces many challenges ahead, and there is still a lot of work to do to bridge the gap between policy discussions and implementation and furthermore, connecting policy makers to the realities of women during armed conflict. Implementing policies takes time but little by little change does come about. Workshops make impact-slowly but surely. Every drop makes a river. Optimistically, Colombia is in an opportune moment for integrating policies on women, peace and security with the recent election of new local governments that can inject these policies into local planning. This change could spark a transformation of societal and cultural values within local governments that allow new structural conditions to take place, namely those that make women a priority.
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.
Lunch With Workshop Participants
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.
Women in the workshop
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.
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.
Mavic speaking about the 3P's of 1325
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.
Port City of Buenaventura
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.
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.
Mavic, Dawn and Rosa at Rosa's office
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.