Jul 2017
A group of inspiring Colombian women shared their stories of migration and hopes for the future with hundreds of visitors to this year’s Women and War: Exodus festival. 
 
The women, many of whom left Colombia during more than 50 years of conflict, are part of the Truth, Memory and Reconciliation Commission of Colombian Women in the Diaspora (TMRC) – an initiative supported by Conciliation Resources. The TMRC brings together women in London and Barcelona, to share their stories and memories of conflict and migration, and to claim a voice in Colombia’s peace process. 

Imagine peace

The TMRC organised Colombia Day as part of the month-long Women and War: Exodus festival, which explores the impact of war on women and the roads they take to rebuild their lives.
 

“Helga”“Helga”

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
The day opened with a photography exhibition, displaying portraits of the women, alongside their own written testimonies about their lives in Colombia, their journeys of migration and their hopes for the future. The images were taken by photographer Ingrid Guyon, and the photography and story-telling process was in itself a form of healing for many of the women. Nelly and Elisabeth both took part in the exhibition:

The photography session was a great thing, a beautiful artistic expression where the strange combination that forms the sadness, the joy and the hope of exile comes to life.

Nelly

My experience of being photographed and interviewed has been the opportunity to emerge from invisibility, after so many years of frustration as a victim of the Colombian conflict.

Elisabeth

 

“Camilla”
 

 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
In their testimonies, many of the women talked about how important the TMRC [‘The Commission’] is to them, and the change it brought about in their lives:
 

With the commission I have regained faith in a Colombia in peace. In the Commission I have found a place where I feel comfortable, understood and not judged.

Barbara

The commission has empowered me along my migration process and has allowed me to heal the trauma caused by the war back in Colombia. I have developed a new family and built a new network in London. The commission has been supporting me at difficult times and I am deeply thankful to all the ladies for that.

Sophia

It gave me the opportunity to connect with a past in Colombia that had somehow been forgotten. The Commission has given us the opportunity to meet as individual migrants and as a collective of resilient women.

Myriam

The commission for me has been a beautiful project, where we share our life stories and these stories have taught us that despite the diversity of thoughts, ideologies or religious beliefs, the pain unites us and makes us strong. The commission has made my voice so strong, that it can be heard in many parts of the world.

Elisabeth

“Ana

 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
During the exhibition, there was also a screening of Breaking the silence, a short documentary film highlighting the Colombian women living in London and around the world who are working for peace and ensuring their experiences are heard and acknowledge. 

Victoria

One of the highlights of Colombia Day, was a moving monologue presented by renowned Colombian actress Alejandra Borrero. The monologue tells the story of Ana Victoria Bastidas, a friend of Alejandra and a member of the TMRC, who was kidnapped in Colombia by armed traffickers and subsequently migrated to the UK. On 1 July she was ordained as the first female Colombian Anglican priest. Ana Victoria said of the evening:

For me this is not just a performance, it is my life. Tonight I am crossing over a line by sharing my story with others. Since being part of the commission I have been feeling Colombian again. I am ready to love my country again.

The evening ended with members of the TMRC, dressed all in white, singing traditional Colombian songs. Patricia Diaz was one of the organisers of the event:

This evening was such a wonderful way to share our work, as women and as the commission. This is the real meaning of a diaspora: that we can recognise in each other the woman that we are; that we all can re-visit the experiences of the past with new eyes in order to re-define the place of origin. Then, and only then, healing takes place and the future is possible.

Find out more about the work of the TMRC