Ask an activist: What is being done to help Venezuelan women migrants?

Date: Tuesday, July 16, 2019

About the author

Zuneyka Dhisnays Gonzalez arrived in Barranquilla, Colombia in 2015 and began guiding fellow migrants online. Photo: UN Women
Zuneyka Dhisnays Gonzalez. Photo: UN Women/Vannesa Romero

Zuneyka Dhisnays Gonzalez is a 26-year-old mother and Venezuelan migrant to Barranquilla, Colombia. It’s one of the border cities where UN Women is implementing a project funded by USAID, to improve information services for migrants and to mitigate the risks of gender-based violence and sexual exploitation of migrant women. Dhisnays Gonzalez created a social network-based community dubbed “Venezolanos Unidos en Quilla” (Venezuelans united in Barranquilla), to support and guide fellow migrants. She disseminates relevant information and content via social networks, and by talking to other migrants.

“I lived in Caracas [Venezuela]... I studied, worked [in a bank] from Monday to Friday, and studied at night. I made the decision to leave after I found out I was pregnant, because I saw that diapers and milk were no longer available.I was doing the queues, but you could hardly get anything. When my daughter was born, the difficulties getting food started and we decided to come here [to Colombia in December 2015].

We set up a family business [in Colombia], but it only lasted five months. We had to shut it down, put things up for sale ... They paid us with a check, but the check bounced for lack of funds and we lost most of our savings.

When you arrive, you feel lonely. I decided to create this social network to support people. I’ve been an activist for about a year now. In Venezuela I never did anything like this.

There are women who write to me ... They tell me that they’re afraid, that their partners abuse them and they’re afraid to report it because of their irregular immigration status. They don’t think anyone is going to help them. Migrants go through a cycle that affects them emotionally.

I like social work. I feel good helping my people, because I know what it is like to arrive alone in a foreign country. I would like to have a physical space where I can help my compatriots, to be part of the solution. My goal is to legally register ‘Venezuelans United in Quilla’, to continue providing that support.”