Interview with Ana Teresa Lozada, originally published May 2010.
by Chris Knestrick
Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT) had the opportunity to sit down with Ana Teresa Rueda Lozada to do an interview about the reality of womyn in Colombia, particularly the region of Magdalena Medio to understand how the conflict is affecting womyn. Also, CPT wanted to share the work of Colombian womyn and what they are doing to achieve justice and peace in Colombia. Ana has been part of the Popular Womyn’s Organization (OFP) for 12 years and part of the Womyn’s Social Movement against War and For Peace (MSM) since 1998. The OFP began in 1972 to defend life and human rights, encouraging womyn to transform social reality and reconstruct their own social fabric and civil society, while committing to resisting all forms of violence. Right now, Mrs. Lozada is leading MSM’s proposal in the Magdalena Medio and northeast Colombia regions.
CPT: What is the political context that you are working in? And what does this mean for womyn?
Ms. Lozada: The political, social and economic development of the region is very difficult and complex. First, I am going give us some historical context to ground the conversation that will enable us, woman and communities, to say how we are currently living.
Barrancabermeja and Magdalena Medio region is a region that has lived for many years in different forms of violence. The armed conflict has its roots in deep social inequalities, such as the dispute over the territory. This dispute has caused the dispossession and displacement from lands for the minerals and natural wealth that we have. This has led to the presences of illegal armed groups and the increased militarization by the state armed forces in the area. This is generating a dispute over the territory where the civilian population has been the most affected. At one point there were the guerrillas in the urban areas of the municipalities but now the paramilitaries are patrolling, in spite of the demobilization process. The demobilization is a proposal that the Colombian state called the “law of justice and peace,” but it is not a law of justice, or peace. It has been a process of impunity and legalizes the process of forgiving the armed actors; in this case operating paramilitaries that have killed and destroyed the social fabric and the family with the complicity of the military.
The demobilization process that started in 2005 was a process that was done behind the backs of communities in the region. It has not been an open process for the communities and it is not known how many paramilitaries there are and where they are. Furthermore, the victims began to be charged with crimes and going from being the victims to being the perpetrators. The organizations identified paramilitaries and in some cases have generated judicial processes. Now the people who have benefited from this law are starting judicial processes against recognized social leaders in the region. Furthermore, the paramilitaries continue to operate with other names and everyday ordinary people know this. For example, in Barrancabermeja there were over 145 people selectively assassinated last year. There are no massacres but control continues to exist at the economic, political and social levels. There is extortion, threats, and pamphlets given out with names of those to be killed. There is no policy of dismantling the paramilitaries. These armed actors have helped to facilitate the entry of multinationals by removing the farmers from their land and doing the dirty work that the government would not be able do.
The people here in Barrancabermeja live in impoverishment despite all the economic activity we have here. There was the oil boom but the people who benefit were not from the city. The beneficiaries from the resources in the regions are large multinational corporations and mega projects. There are no jobs. There is rummaging for work like the selling of cell phone minutes and the making and selling of tamales.
From the national and local government there are no real solutions to the poverty experienced in the region. It is clear that when we talk about the assistance programs that have emerged from the national government, that their solutions are superficial
In the region we, the womyn, continue actively resisting, denouncing human rights abuses, and working strongly for the reconstruction of the social fabric.
CPT: The social movement talks about “the militarization of womyn’s bodies.” Could you explain what this means in the context of the war here in Colombia?
Ms. Lozada: For many years womyn’s body have been used by armies as shields, insults, and for humiliation of their enemies, such as placing them in places to be publicly mocked and degrading her body and generating fear. Where there have been military bases it has generating problems. We notice the increase in prostitution of very young girls and forced abortions. In the situation of the additional deployment of the U.S. military bases in Colombia, it is going to be a disaster for the womyn and the people because the American soldiers will have immunity and cannot be punished for the crimes they commit in Colombia.
CPT: Why are you working in the Peace Movement?
Ms. Lozada: It has to do basically with that I want to contribute in the transformation of this reality that we live, especially womyn, which is so difficult. Colombia is a country that has faced an armed conflict for many years – an armed conflict where many womyn and men have died, been displaced and have been disappeared. I want to build a better country, for my nephews, my children, and my friends. I dream that one day this country will be fair for everyone, where everyone has place and where all can be.
I am here, even though participating in this organizational process runs risks – it generates fear and stigmatizes and marks all those who defend human rights. This organization has helped me to recognize myself as a woman, as a political subject capable of saying what is going on and making proposals for the city, country, and communities. It helped me to understand the phrase “You are not born a woman, you learn to become one.”
CPT: Could you share a story or an experience about your work?
Ms. Lozada: More than sharing a story, I want to remember all the moments we have lived within the Organization. We have experienced all sorts of human rights violation, death threat, assassinations, displacement, the disappearance of one of our offices. Through all these moments, we shared together the fears and we knew that being organized and united we could resist.
And it is now important to continue recognizing that social organizations exist in this region of resistance. We denounce. We walked and dreamed of a different country despite the onslaught that has taken the city. The work of communities continues. They are womyn with a voice of hope and they are leading processes. Womyn have the ability to continue dreaming – striving for our sons and daughters. The people still mobilize. There are men, womyn, and organizations thinking about the city, region and country.
CPT: What is the history and mission of the Womyn’s Social Movement Against War and for Peace in the Magdalena Medio and the national?
Ms. Lozada: The movement was born as an initiative of the OFP beginning with a very simple exercise. A letter to womyn about what they thought of the war at that time. What was found was that they were tired of war and hence there arose the proposal. Before, the womyn were called “Chained Womyn against the War.” It grew and there are currently more than 40 organizations (indigenous, rural, academic, displaced, community mothers, church, ect) with a concrete peace proposal and a common and clear agenda from the womyn in the popular sectors. Initially, the name ended “against the war” and after discussions we needed to add “for peace.”
The Movement has achieved a lot through the building of this agenda. This agenda is for four years on specific issues: 1) Womyn, Land and Development, 2) Womyn, War, Peace and 3) Democracy and Womyn and Social Movements.
CPT Is the movement only for womyn?
Ms. Lozada:The movement is a proposal by womyn and built by the communities. There is accompaniment and work with men on some activities but it is from the womyn that proposals are brought and we build them for everyone.
CPT: You have something else to say before we end this interview?
Ms. Lozada:In this country men and womyn are dreamers and we will continue to march and to build proposals towards peace, which above all includes social Justice, although it seems far away. We believe that the country’s conflict must be resolved through negotiations and not with weapons. The civilian population is the most affected and has much to say about peace.
The movement is encouraging; we recognize it and many people can participate in its construction. We continue to dream of a different Colombia where we may be able live and live with dignity.