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Promoting spaces for dialogue for women on security priorities in Colombia

In June, DCAF Latin America and Caribbean Unit (LAC); Gender and Security Division and the Colombian NGO Social and Economic Research and Economic Corporation – CIASE, in cooperation with Norway, worked together to create a series of recommendations for the Colombian National Police to assist them in adapting their violence against women (VAW) response protocols to the conditions of the “transitional zones” in Colombia, territories formerly controlled by the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (FARC) and where the ex-combatants are now integrated. The disappearance of guerrilla structures, the emergence of new armed actors and some delay in the deployment of State institutions (including the public force) to assume control of that territory have contributed to an increase in crime and femicides.

The objective of the project was to assist the Colombian National Police Unit (UNIPEP) for Peacebuilding in the adaption of its violence against women (VAW) response protocols to the conditions of the special “transition zones”. This objective responds to the acknowledgment of the challenges to the implementation of the Final Agreement to End the Armed Conflict and to achieve a stable and lasting peace. The project has been developed in 5 (out of 26) “transitional zones” that reflected a diverse topographic, cultural, ethnic, and political identity. 188 women were interviewed, which some were young, adult, elderly, including farmers, indigenous, Afro-descendants, victims, former combatants, disabled and neurodiverse people.

Although rural Colombian women are entitled to all the protections and guarantees bestowed by the Colombian Constitution, they live in the shadow of fear. The multiple dimensions in which fear is present in their lives took part in the process. These women fear their own death or that of a loved one, food scarcity, the return of aerial bombings, being threatened when reporting a crime, confronting someone with power, rapists, armed groups, oppression by the family, and many other things.

The consultations with the rural Colombian women revealed a great sense of physical, economic and social insecurity, at the individual and family level, both in public and private spaces. This feeling of insecurity presents a daily obstacle to the most basic economic and social activities that women need—and have the right—to perform. Also, this feeling of insecurity, transmitted generationally, creates permanent barriers to women’s full enjoyment of human and civil rights.

Some recommendations that were highlighted during the presentation was that the State as guarantor of the right to security should in the security provision not be limited to the presence of uniformed State actors (Police and Army), first responders should assume a mandate of documenting acts of violence, institutions should provide crime reporting mechanisms for women that avoid the high costs of travelling in rural areas, ombuds institutions must regain their function of oversight of State actions and resources used at the local level and the like.

The Police and its role in social cohesion and security should be sufficiently knowledgeable of the history of violence and natural disasters in those areas, especially those most directly affecting women, should receive training on gender-based violence, and should develop proactive initiatives to detect racist bias among its officers in their interactions with rural communities, with emphasis on the treatment of minority groups.

The international community and its role in the security of rural women should reconsider the way it provides security to its own teams to avoid conveying an image of fear, mistrust, and of militarized security, should aim at restoring the social fabric destroyed during the conflict and the consequent isolation of many rural women by supporting everyday community-building activities, should support self-protection initiatives in vulnerable situations in the communities, with special attention to the threats to women leaders et al.

In sum, this project advocates for the creation of safe environments, and future perspectives for collective and individual initiatives aiming the right to security and to a life free from violence, there is a need of building of a peaceful country where voices are stronger than the sound of weapons. Additionally, the project is deeply embedded in the international and national commitments with the Women, Peace, and Security agenda, relying on the principles and recommendations of United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325 (2000) and related resolutions, assuming the importance of identifying elements linked to the protection, prevention, and participation of women in peacebuilding scenarios. As for the SDGs, this project comprises SDGs 5, 16 and 17. SDG 5 – Gender Equality because all forms of discrimination against women and girls are not only a basic human right, but it also crucial to accelerating sustainable development. It is paramount that any kind of discrimination should end. SDG 16 – Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions because without peace, stability, human rights and effective governance, based on the rule of law – we cannot hope for sustainable development. SDG 17 – Partnerships for the Goals because without local and international partnership, none of the goals can be achieved. The SDGs can only be realized with a strong commitment to global partnership and cooperation. This project also includes the acknowledgment of human security as the ultimate goal, as a human and civil right intrinsically related to human dignity, the full exercise of citizenship, and the construction of a democratic society.

This blog post was written by Patricia Zanini Graca. Patricia is a first-year graduate student at Seton Hall’s School of Diplomacy and International Relations. Patricia graduated in Business Administration and she holds an MBA in Business and Marketing. Patricia is a UN Digital Representative at the Center for UN and Global Governance Studies, the Executive Director at the Journal of Diplomacy, and the director of International Affairs at the Graduate Diplomacy Council. She specializes in International Organizations and Global Negotiations & Conflict Management. 

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