Despite being disproportionately affected by the conflict in Colombia, the voices of indigenous women are often not heard. Over the past year, alongside our Colombian partner CIASE, Conciliation Resources has been working to establish and support a network of indigenous women to play a fundamental role in the country’s peace process. This month, two of the women from the network will be standing for public office in the country’s legislative elections.
Indigenous communities were some of the worst affected by more than 50 years of armed conflict in Colombia. Much of the conflict took place within indigenous territories, and women in particular were disproportionally affected by the resulting violence and displacement. Margarita Rodriguez is an indigenous representative of the Sikuani People:
We have faced armed conflict, psychological violence, domestic violence within our communities, and outside we suffer discrimination.
The historic peace agreement, signed between the Government of Colombia and Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) in 2016, acknowledges the impact of the conflict on indigenous communities, and states that they must be included in the implementation of the peace process. This acknowledgement is now an opportunity for indigenous women to step forward and play a more leading role, also in their own communities.
With CIASE, we’re supporting women from indigenous communities to ensure that their views, concerns and expertise, and those of indigenous communities as a whole, are taken into account.
July 2017 saw the official launch of the National Coordination of Indigenous Women in Colombia (CONAMIC), a network of women from 10 different indigenous groups across Colombia. This is the first and only space for permanent coordination among women of different indigenous peoples.
I have become much more thoughtful and patient; more respectful in the diversity of other women’s thinking.
Yoryina, Yeral people
Over the past year, CONAMIC members and CIASE have been training people from indigenous communities across Colombia. Topics have included human rights, indigenous rights, the gender focus in the 2016 peace agreement and how to document the implementation of this agreement at a local level. Participation in the network is empowering women from these rural communities and giving them the confidence to represent their people further.
Through the establishment of CONAMIC, and the training and support from CIASE, two of the founding members of the network have decided to run in the parliamentary elections taking place this month. Maria Inés, from the Nasa tribe, is a candidate for the House of Representatives elections, and Mamá Carmen, from the Pasto tribe, is running for the Senate. Their work with CONAMIC has been a key driver in deciding to run for office, as Maria explains:
Indigenous women are totally invisible, discriminated against, and excluded, even in their own territories and by some indigenous authorities. CONAMIC allowed me to understand that this situation is also common in many other towns. The alliance of women motivated me to join electoral politics.
María Inés, Nasa People
CONAMIC members also have a rare opportunity to travel to the country’s capital, Bogata, to spend time with CIASE. The rural communities where the CONAMIC members live, have very little connection to the capital. Through an internship scheme, members of the network learn new skills such as computing, budgeting and communications. More importantly, they have the opportunity to establish direct relationships with national and international organisations, and policymakers working on the implementation of the peace agreement.
CONAMIC for me is a teacher. It takes away my fear. It gives me strength.
Gloria, Embera People.
Find out more about indigenous women and Colombia’s peace process in our Accord Spotlight publication and find out more about our work with CONAMIC here.