The July 2012 Colombia delegation is over. The focus of our delegation included the exploration of women’s issues in scenarios of violence and conflict. During the two week delegation, we met with several organizations that are partners of CPT. Representatives of these organizations shared countless narratives with us, with hope that we will return to our home countries and share them with others.
One of the first stories we heard comes from Casa de la Mujer. This agency assists victims of all forms of violence, while shifting the mentality from victimization to empowerment. One account describes the story of a woman that had been brutally raped with a knife. Though the crime scene was blocks from a hospital, the authorities took her to a medical center over 40 minutes away; this resulted in her death. We understand that both economic class and gender prejudices fueled the decision to take the woman across town, having four hospitals near the place she was found.
In our meeting with the food workers’ union, Mariana, a Coca-Cola employee, shared her story. Shortly after joining the union, the management started harassing her and took away her computer and phone. When they returned them a month and a half later, they expected her to catch up on missed work. The harassment did not end there. Mariana, who was pregnant at the time, delivered her baby prematurely due to stress. Since then, Mariana receives threats and lives in fear.
Toward the end of our delegation, we met with individuals from ASODESAMUBA, a human rights organization that provides assistance to displaced persons. The director, Jacinta, is living under threats and in constant fear. The government taps her phone and the paramilitaries follow her. Her sons endure the violence of displacement and her daughter suffers from PTSD. Jacinta had the opportunity to move to Canada, but stayed because of her work. Due to the wearying affects of constant surveillance and threats of violence to her and her family, she now wonders whether that was the right choice. She is tired of fighting, but knowing that international partners, like CPT, continue to accompany displaced peoples, encourages her to persevere.
Our Colombian partners want us to pass on their stories and struggles to our communities. A recurring theme, contrary to what the U.S. and Colombian governments promote, is that the violence continues. The paramilitaries and other armed actors selectively kill with impunity. Although they currently commit fewer high-profile massacres, targeted extra-judicial killings occur more frequently, resulting in a higher total number of deaths than before. Many of the communities we met with would welcome development if, instead of forced displacement, it respected their land and culture. Communities have the right to autonomy and to live their lives in peace.