#MoreWomenMorePeace: Women peacebuilders in Colombia

Published 20 September 2017 in:

Women peacebuilders in Colombia. Photo: The Colombian Ombudsman Office

There is an important story about women, peace and security that needs to be told.
We are putting the spotlight on women who have paved the way – the bold and the brave – and we know there are and can be many more of them.
We are pushing for #MoreWomenMorePeace.

Women’s participation in the Colombian peace process was the result of the extraordinary engagement of women’s organisations.
This contributed directly to the final peace agreement reached in 2016 and sets an example for other peace negotiations held around the world.

Women in Colombia have been at the crossroads of the armed conflict for many years.
One of many examples is the journalist and human rights activist Jineth Bedoya.

In 2000, Bedoya – who has won multiple awards and accolades as a journalist – was kidnapped and raped by paramilitary groups. At the time, she was working on an in-depth report on government and paramilitary group links to arms smuggling in the country. Three years later, she was kidnapped by the Farc when a report she had written about their involvement in the drug trade was published. Her plight, like that of many others, was long ignored by the authorities.

Since the assaults, she has dedicated herself tirelessly to the peace and reconciliation process, and today she represents the victims of the conflict in Colombia. President Santos has appointed her Ambassador for women victims of sexual violence caused by the conflict. And in Colombia, 25 May – the date on which she was first kidnapped – is now National Day for the Dignity of Women Victims of Sexual Violence caused by the Internal Armed Conflict.

Cases like this one make it obvious why women’s participation in the peace negotiations was so crucial. In 2014, two years after negotiations began, the government of Colombia and the Farc announced a new sub-commission on gender in the peace process, tasked with ensuring that the agreements had an “adequate gender focus.”

The sub-commission was the first of its kind and sets an example for other peace negotiations held around the world. According to the Executive Director of UN Women, Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, “this might be the best example of a significant and consistent participation of women in a peace process”.

The sub-commission is a clear recognition of women as political actors and peacebuilders. It also shows the importance of the role women play in strengthening democracy and for the sustainability of peace agreements.

In addition, all the work of regional women’s organisations helped to ensure that a gender focus was included in the Colombian peace agreement. One of the most important was the ‘Cumbre Nacional de Mujeres y Paz’ (Women’s Summit for Peace), which gathered more than 450 women from different organisations and social movements from all the regions in the country.

The gender focus of the peace agreement will ensure that women have access to land, that their voices are heard in the implementation phase and that they are guaranteed access to truth and justice.