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From that moment forward, we thought as a collective. Based in the northern region of Bolivar, the Liga is a grassroots group run by and for women who are victims of the conflict between the government, right-wing paramilitaries, crime syndicates and leftist armed rebel groups, such as FARC, a battle that is still ongoing despite a peace process which began in The six-decade long conflict in Colombia has displaced more than six million peoplehitting indigenous and Afro-Colombian communities in particular.
It is estimated that half of these have experienced sexual violence: perpetrated systematically mainly by paramilitary groups, but also by state forces and rebel groups. They would kill the men and throw them in the river. And it was a dream, because a city of houses built by and for displaced women seemed impossibly far from the reality of their lives in El Pozon.
She says this with pride, from the terrace of the house she now owns in the City of Women. Each of the brightly painted houses has its own front terrace, furnished with rocking chairs and close enough to the neighbours to allow them to talk over the noise of children playing football or chasing chickens through the mango-tree-lined avenues.
We had to learn about construction, topography … Some women deed the blocks, others built them. Construction of the City began in Turbaco — a municipality on the outskirts of Cartagena — Lady looking sex Columbiathanks to international funding secured by the founder and lawyer of the Liga, Patricia Guerrero. Eidanis describes how the labour was managed collectively.
In an organisation that was by then five years old and already strong, the collective effort to build the City solidified its foundations.
While some women built and laid bricks, others tended the crops grown on site to sustain the community. Some were responsible for collective childcare, others cooked the meals. And as Lubis takes us through the City, teasing the children playing in the streets, laughing with neighbours, and shouting greetings through doorways, it is clear how continuing to live and work alongside one another for the past decade has only strengthened this collectivism. Yet they are united by shared experiences of violence.
This is something crucial, fundamental … it was the process that gave the organisation its strength. The foundations for the Liga were set in the s by a small group of women who met each morning queuing for fish, in El Pozon. Patricia Guerrero, a feminist lawyer from Bogota, began to these meetings in As part of her work she had been looking for female leaders of existent social organisations in El Pozon. Discovering the gathering momentum of this network of displaced women, she formally founded the Liga. In Lady looking sex Columbia Guerrero spoke openly about her own feminism which, along with the human rights vocabulary she brought, provided important conceptual and linguistic tools for the Liga.
I wanted to learn to express myself. Today, Dayanera expresses herself with an articulate clarity. The is true of all the Liga women. They are practised in telling their stories and advocating for themselves. This focus on speech and representation is part of a belief that their collective voice, rooted in shared experience, can speak louder in the ear of the Colombian state, which many of these women distrust. While victims are supposed to appeal to one arm of the state for justice, other arms are seen as responsible for the very violations they seek redress for.
The local police force in El Pozon, for example, is widely accused of being in collusion with the paramilitary groups perpetrating continued violence in the region. Some women know from experience that state security forces are equally capable of violations. This in a complete lack of confidence in the processes of justice, leading victims to fear reporting crimes. When we denounce we do not fall into ignorance — not of the state, not of the paramilitaries, not of anyone.
We all denounce because if we do not all denounce, total impunity will continue. To denounce is to make ourselves strong. On an individual level, condemning the crimes of some of the most powerful actors in Colombian society is difficult and dangerous, but doing so as a collective has given the women courage.
This is one good to have come from the suffering they have endured. It resulted in the office providing psychological support to those women who had testified. The Constitutional Court issued a of orders instructing the Ministry of the Interior to develop strategies to protect displaced women. These, however, were never adequately enforced and nothing was done to bring any of those involved in the cases to justice. Seeking protective measures, in the Liga filed a denouncement of impunity against the Colombian state itself, with the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights.
This is still in process. We are very, very, very threatened. Threats are permanent here in the community because of our work … because we denounce. Collective as opposed to individual reparations are important to the group as they acknowledge collective harms.
Specific populations — in this case women and predominantly Afro-Colombian women — are recognised as having been systematically violated. Granting collective reparations including goods, compensation and rehabilitation to grassroots organisations such as the Liga is seen as restitution for the group rights that have been violated. For us this is education, health, housing, everything … everything that in one moment the war and Lady looking sex Columbia violence took from all of us.
The state has its position, and we have our organised position. But there is a cost to this organised position. To the same degree that their work makes them visible as both women and activists, it makes them targets. Dayanera is clear about the link between her work and her safety. In the early s, the area saw an influx of paramilitaries.
These right-wing groups — the brainchild of Cold War US military advisers to Colombia, then supported by narco-traffickers in the s — were deed to crush leftist armed rebels and their supposed civilian allies. The flawed demobilisation of the United Self-Defence Forces of Colombia AUCa paramilitary and drug trafficking group, in meant that many ex-paramilitaries ed other drug trafficking groups. These groups consequently inherited the notion that civil activist groups such as the Liga were their targets. When work began on building the City inmasked and hooded men would drive past, threatening violence and murder.
Many women left out of fear. Yet, Lubis recalls, it was his widow, a member of the Liga, who d the building work first. Keila Esther Berrio Almanza, one of the women living in the City, was murdered in The pd perpetrators of the ongoing violence and intimidation are paramilitary groups and drug trafficking gangs such as Aguilas negras Black Eagles and ERPAC, the revolutionary anti-communist army. Sometimes unknown men arrive with hoods on, and threaten us [and] our daughters … some have been raped … some have become pregnant. They are 12 or 13 years old.
And our sons, they give them drugs — 11 or 12 years old and they give them drugs. However, it is because of this violence, because the City of Women is still standing and now has about inhabitants, that Lubis associates it with peace. Colombia is in the final stages of peace negotiations between the government and the largest left-wing rebel group FARC, being held in Havana.
Against this backdrop, questions about the role of organisations like the Liga in building a lasting peace seem like obvious ones to ask. In other words: a mess. Everyone and their dog is suddenly breathing peace - because, of course, who wouldn't want to be seen to be on the side of peace? But what will it change?
The original conditions of the war - inequality, fundamental ideological disputes over land ownership - still exist. Nothing is resolved. The original conditions of the war — inequality, fundamental ideological disputes over land ownership — still exist. And in whose name exactly is it that they speak?
Not in mine. Even less in the name of the women of the Liga. Not from someone else. Guerrero is exhausted. For them, the reality is ongoing violence and continued threats. And such threats do not only take the form of physical violence. He has had diarrhoea for days, and Seletina explains that if it continues she will have to take him to the hospital in Cartagena, two bus trips away.
This will cost the equivalent of 80 cents, which for most of the households in the City is prohibitively expensive. Residents talk about not even having the equivalent of 30 cents in their pockets. One woman in the community died because of this Lady looking sex Columbia of accessible healthcare. The lack of affordable transport also in an insular economy. Money-making ventures involve informally selling food and basic household items to fellow inhabitants of the City, or on the side of the road to Cartagena.
This reality, the women are careful to emphasise, is not exactly the dignified life they dreamt of. Dayanera and her daughter at the stand where they sell food to neighbours; opportunities to make money are limited, and often confined to the community itself. Eidanis sits on the terrace of her house.
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