Colombia

In Quibdó, social leaders and former combatants discussed on self-protection and leadership

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In Chocó, sixty women, including social leaders and former FARC combatants, participated in a workshop to exchange knowledge and learn practical tools to identify situations of gender violence and act against possible aggressions. The workshop was organized by the UN Verification Mission, MAPP/OAS, with the support of the 'Pacific Women's Route organization.

When Sandra Luna, a workshop facilitator and member of the Pacific Women's Route organization arrived at Quibdó, asked the event organizers, the UN Verification Mission and MAPP/OAS, that the self-protection workshop must be attended only by women. "The presence of a single man at a women event will condition not only the language used by the facilitator and participants but also their interventions. This situation could jeopardize the entire objective of this meeting," Luna explains.

The event was attended by 60 women, including social and community leaders and former FARC combatants from different municipalities of Chocó, Colombia, such as Litoral del San Juan, Medio Atrato, and Quibdó. These adult and young women take part in social organizations that constantly participate in the educational process, on leadership skills, political participation, and human rights education.

Knowledge about self-protection is very important for women, since, according to Luna, the perception of protection differs between women and men. For this reason, this workshop was essential for the participants to be able to recognize situations that make them more vulnerable, as well as, to build an individual and collective self-protection plan that will provide them with abilities and capabilities to reduce the risks.

Loredana Profeta, head of Quibdó regional office of the United Nations Verification Mission in Colombia, recognizes that a lot of women in Chocó live in a context of violence, abuse, and risk. Despite the services offered to women by the State, it is the work of social and community leaders in their territories that provides other women with more effective tools to prevent different risk situations.

Profeta adds that "women leaders are great role models in their communities. Therefore, they can promote a gender-based pedagogical transformation, especially on protection and self-protection practices that benefit women in general."

Elizabeth Moreno and another woman leader from San Juan´s General Communitarian Counsel traveled, a full day by boat and by road, from Litoral del San Juan to Quibdó, to participate in this workshop. Women from the south of Chocó and other parts of the department live within a context marked by the presence of armed actors, physical and psychological violence, sexual abuse, and poverty. According to Moreno, “this self-protection workshop provides tools for women leaders to work safe and be respected in their communities.”

In Chocó, MAPP/OAS has been carrying out a process of capacity-building in leadership skills and competences for women and their organizations in Chocó, especially in San Juan and Quibdó regions. They have already implemented strategies and pedagogical campaigns on human rights, knowledge of self-care and self-protection, and roadmaps for attention and action.

The MAPP/OAS, which joined the commemoration of International Women's Day in Quibdó, promoted by the UN Verification Mission, made an invitation to the participants to replicate what they learned. One of these women is Yorladiz Jiménez, a member of the FARC political party in Quibdó, who says that the best way to transform culture is by building a collective leadership of women, empowered, and the most important is to replicate all the experiences and knowledge with other women in their organizations and communities.

The meeting finalized in the afternoon with a presentation made by the participants on the collective self-protection plan. Participants got emotional and thanks to the organizations for the workshop.