Women at the frontlines, building peace in Colombia

Date: Friday, July 22, 2016

Representatives of women's organizations and networks that were part of the first delegation of gender experts at the talks in Havana present their proposals for building a peace deal with the Government of Colombia and FARC-EP negotiators in December 2014. Photo courtesy of the Peace Talks, Havana, Cuba.
Representatives of women's organizations and networks that were part of the first delegation of gender experts at the talks in Havana present their proposals for building a peace deal with the Government of Colombia and FARC-EP negotiators in December 2014. Photo courtesy of the Peace Talks, Havana, Cuba.

UN Women Executive Director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka and Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Sexual Violence Zainab Hawa Bangura, will visit Havana, Cuba, from 23-24 July. The UN representatives will join the event organized by the parties, which will publicly present the important achievements made by the Gender Sub-Commission composed of representatives of the Colombian Government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC).

After more than 50 years of armed conflict, the Government of Colombia led by President Juan Manuel Santos signed a bilateral cease-fire agreement with the FARC insurgency group in June 2016. While all agreements are still in draft form, the latest peace talks signal hope for a final agreement to be concluded in August, followed by a referendum. This is a critical moment for the women peacebuilders of Colombia, whose advocacy resulted in the establishment of a dedicated gender sub-commission with a mandate to ensure that gender perspectives and women’s rights are included in all agreements.

Spotlighting the voices of Colombian women peacebuilders

Bibiana Peñaranda Sepúlveda is a peacebuilder from Buenaventura, Colombia, and a founder of a women’s network called “Red Mariposas de Alas Nuevas.” The network exposes incidents of violence against women, creates safe spaces for women to talk about their experiences and assists them in seeking justice and in rebuilding their communities. The network also examines how the war in Colombia exacerbated racism and machismo. “All the women in the network have experienced some form of violence,” said Ms. Peñaranda, in an interview with UN Women. The network offers hope to every woman who arrives defeated and tired by the war, she adds, “we say, ‘come on, together we will hold hands and move ahead’…we are transforming the concept of power.”

Nelly Velandia leads the National Association of Indigenous and Peasant Women of Colombia. She is one of 16 women who participated as gender experts in the historic Peace Talks taking place since October 2012 in Havana, Cuba, between the Government of Colombia and the FARC. As part of a delegation of women peacebuilders, she will be meeting with the gender sub-commission in Havana this week. Constant death threats from various illegal armed groups have not deterred Ms. Velandia’s determination to ensure that women take an active part in peacebuilding. “War is not only fought with bullets, war is also [about] the public policies against the interest of communities…”she says. “Society has to understand that if we don’t reduce women’s burden of domestic work and time poverty, we cannot move forward. And if [women] don’t move forward, economy moves backwards.”

Ms. Velandia’s voice is featured among six other Colombian women peacebuilders in the video series “1325: Mujeres resueltas a construir paz,” created by Lula Gómez as part of the “Overcoming violence against Women” programme by UN Women in partnership with the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and the Swedish Embassy in Colombia.

For more voices of Colombian women, see 1325: Mujeres resueltas a construir paz.

More stories and speeches

“This is the time for Colombia”
Remarks by Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations and UN Women Executive Director, at the Peace Talks Table with the Government of Colombia and FARC-EP in Havana, Cuba

Joint Statement by Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka and Zainab Hawa Bangura on the historic commitment by the Government of Colombia and FARC-EP at the Havana Peace Talks Table
This statement is attributable to Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, United Nations Under-Secretary-General and Executive Director of UN Women, and Zainab Hawa Bangura, United Nations Under-Secretary-General and Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Sexual Violence in Conflict.

Diana, an indigenous woman displaced by violence, participated in crafting the strategy in the city of Villaviencio, where she lives with her family. Photo: David Fayad

Changing the narrative on women’s role in peacebuilding in Colombia
For Colombian women, ending violence against women is a precondition for peace. For decades, they have been underlining this ask in their peacebuilding efforts, but their work remains invisible. A new programme supported by UN Women and partners seeks to bring women’s contribution and perspectives to the forefront.

In Havana, Cuba, UN Women Executive Director to meet with Colombian parties of the Peace Talks Table
UN Women Executive Director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka and Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Sexual Violence Zainab Hawa Bangura, will visit Havana, Cuba, from 23-24 July.

Women take the reins to build peace in Colombia
The voices of women as experts, survivors and negotiators have been included in a peace process with an unprecedented gender perspective, with the support of UN Women and other partners. 


ED guest of the city of Medellín

Coverage: UN Women Executive Director visits Colombia
During her first official visit to Colombia, from 8-9 May, UN Women Executive Director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, accompanied by Regional Director Luiza Carvalho and UN Women Representative in Colombia Belén Sanz, met representatives from civil society, government institutions, the business sector, and representatives of the international community. 

Statement by UN Women Executive Director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka on the agreement between the Government of Colombia and the FARC
In a statement on the agreement between the Government of Colombia and the FARC, UN Women Executive Director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka welcomed the inclusion of a gender perspective among the principles guiding the agreement, and called for the leadership and protection of women throughout its implementation.

Joint Statement by Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka and Zainab Hawa Bangura on the signing on 15 December 2015 of the agreement on conflict victims between the Government of Colombia and FARC-EP
This statement is attributable to Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, United Nations Under-Secretary-General and Executive Director of UN Women, and Zainab Hawa Bangura, United Nations Under-Secretary-General and Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Sexual Violence in Conflict. 

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