The first food market of former FARC combatants in Medellin

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Francely Arias hopes that the market distributes products of small producers, farmers, and individuals in reintegration. She holds coffee from Cauca and craft beer La Roja from Icononzo, Tolima. © Elizabeth Yarce/UNVMC

A group of 32 women in reintegration from various regions in the country set up the "Women's Market for Peace Building" with support from the UN Verification Mission in Colombia and UNDP.

The products produced and promoted by former Farc combatants from different Colombia regions are for sale at the "Women's Market for Peace Building" that began operations in Medellín.

'Paramillo Coffee' from Ituango, Antioquia, 'Flavor of Hope' from northern Cauca, eggs and 'La Montaña Honey' from Anorí, La Roja craft beer from Icononzo, Tolima, and Sacha Inchi oil from Arauca, are among the many items that make up this market launched by 32 women in reintegration. Most of the women are the breadwinners in their families.

In addition to securing an income and bringing to the city products from the former Territorial Areas for Training and Reintegration (TATR), they aim to foster gender solidarity and distribution channels. Ledys Restrepo, a member of the project, explains, "this opens doors to a new world for all of us that come from the jungle and want to work together to move forward."

From the jungle to the city

"I began the reintegration process in Vidrí on the border between Antioquia and Chocó, and, after participating in the Verification Monitoring Mechanism and that space was closed, I headed to Medellín. Our empowerment in this city was a struggle that we dived into after leaving the jungle behind because when you make it out, it is hard, and that is why we have to be united," says Ledys Restrepo.

"I arrived in the city late September of 2017, began to contact women. We came from different parts of the country, and we came together, and we committed ourselves to continue to work for peace. We empower ourselves as women, and from there, we began brainstorming on what we could do. It was powerful to see us all in the house of reintegration," says Ledys.

"We empower ourselves as women, and from there, we began brainstorming on what we could do. It was powerful to see us all in the house of reintegration".

"It was then that the UN Verification Mission, after learning of our stories, decided to get involved and support the Women's Market, and the UNDP soon followed. We were thrilled to have a project that is for us in Medellin; it's wonderful," she adds.

A gender-perspective focus

The UN Verification Mission in Colombia aims to foster women's participation in economic reintegration. For this reason, the Mission considers it essential for them to have a project to advance their autonomy. Likewise, to empower them to become active members of the Cotepaz, cooperative established in the city for this purpose.

"It is important that a gender-perspective focus is applied to all processes, actions, plans, programs, political, financial, and social reintegration projects to guarantee that the interests and needs of women are taken into account. And also, to ensure an equal reintegration of women and men into the reintegration process," explains Ana Beatriz González, the UN Verification Mission gender liaison in Medellin.

In Medellín, there are about 500 people in the Reintegration Process and their families, and therefore a New Reintegration Area was established in which women play a fundamental role. For this reason, with the support of the UN Verification Mission in Colombia and the UNDP, the women's market is a gender-focused effort.

Francely Arias is also a member of this initiative. She says that she was working on a pig farming project in Mesetas, Meta, but being in the city opened up other possibilities. "In addition to this project, we are also interested in acquiring knowledge in other fields, for example, regarding empowerment in politics and a political party setting. Now that this is a reality, we are very optimistic and confident that this cannot stop with this one initiative but that many new ones can emerge and that we can contribute to back more ideas on a national level," she says.

"Now that this is a reality, we are very optimistic and confident that this cannot stop with this one initiative but that many new ones can emerge and that we can contribute to back more ideas on a national level".

A benefit for the communities

The Women's Market for Peace Building is located in Belen, west of the city, in a facility provided by the Antioquia Governor's Office through a bailment contract. For this reason, they hope to have a place of their own.

"As peace signatories, not only do we have to think about ourselves in this process, but we must think of the communities and work for that social fabric. The initial idea is to distribute products of individuals in reintegration and articulate with farmers and women's organizations and contribute to their product distribution," she adds.

Francely points out that the Multiactive Cooperative Cotepaz, to which the former combatants in Medellín belong, hopes to boost this initiative "because all this is new to us, but this is how we are learning and developing this project."

Yolanda Restrepo highlights the opportunities for women that are breadwinners like her. "I am a mother of four, and I want this market to help me to support them... Many of us have similar stories, and we can help each other. This project is not just what we see here. It will expand, and we will all put in the effort to make it happen," she explains.

"Here you have eggs of the best quality from Anorí, La Esperanza Coffee from Buenos Aires, Cauca and Paramillo, Ituango. Another product in this market is craft beer La Roja from the rural zone of Icononzo (Tolima). We also have greens and vegetables, fruits from local farmers. There are markets with different prices, and we are selling with delivery services through our Instagram and Whatsapp until we open our shop," she says.

The Women's Market for Peace Building hopes to position itself as a community of women that support peace and work towards solidarity and fair trade in Medellín and the metropolitan area.

Extra-budgetary funding

The project has the support of extra-budgetary funding. The UN Verification Mission in Colombia contributed USD 10.000 and the UNDP USD 5.000. The verification focus of the Mission is constructive, and the aim is to promote conflict resolution, trust-building and to bring together efforts to overcome implementation challenges. In line with this objective, the Mission has received extrabudgetary funds from the DPA to support income-generating projects self-managed by individuals in reintegration.

Although limited in size and scope, these interventions that provide materials, supplies, and other contributions to support reintegration efforts, have a significant impact on people's lives.

Elizabeth Yarce

Public Information Officer -- Antioquia region

UN Verification Mission in Colombia