After 50 Years of Conflict: Colombian Journalists Discuss Their Roles in Building a Peaceful Society

After 50 Years of Conflict: Colombian Journalists Discuss Their Roles in Building a Peaceful Society

After 50 Years of Conflict: Colombian Journalists Discuss Their Roles in Building a Peaceful Society

October 9, 2018 by Kelly Yzique Zea*
Bogota, Colombia
“Colombian media need to stop portraying women as victims of war but instead as survivors and peacebuilders.”

This was the  the resounding message among the participants who attended a workshop on the media and United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325 on Women, Peace and Security held in Bogotá, Colombia. The workshop co-facilitated by The Global Network of Women Peacebuilders and the Red Nacional de Mujeres en Colombia, and with support from the Peace and Stabilization Operations Program of the Global Affairs Canada, convened media practitioners from different communications outlets in the country. The different perspectives led to lively discussions regarding the role of the media in both the implementation of the Women, Peace and Security (WPS) agenda and the peace agreement between the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and the Colombian Government.

Many of the participants had previous experience in preacebuilding reporting, but most of their reporting has been gender-blind. Therefore, this consultation trained media practitioners in Colombia on the WPS agenda and its related resolutions, and also provided them with a more in-depth understanding of the unique impact of war on women. The participants agreed that it is imperative to ensure that journalists are aware of women’s experiences during the war and their efforts to build peace because it enable them to report from a gender perspective. This could influence the development and implementation of laws and policies that protect women’s rights and enables the meaningful participation of women in the peace process.

The war between the FARC and the Colombian Government has affected the lives of millions of Colombians, but it has disproportionately impacted the lives of Colombian women. Karen Gonzalez from the Presidential Council on Human Rights stated that the brunt of the war has been felt by women living in conflict zones (e.g. 4,165,138 women have been impacted throughout the entirety of the war, out of which, 106,571 were indigenous women and 399,062 were Afro-Colombian women). Not only were the lives of women impacted during the years of conflict but even after the signing of the peace agreement and the reintegration process, women survivors of sexual abuse, women ex-combatants and their children still face stigma. They also have very little access to psycho-social programs and support. Therefore, it is imperative that Colombian media shifts its narrative from women as victims, to women as survivors and peacebuilders.  

It was noted that there is still a gap in the way gender issues are reported in traditional media outlets and the actual realities on the ground. Clara Ines Valdez Rivera from Proceso de Comunidades Negras (PCN) gave recommendations to other journalists on the importance of highlighting the voices of Afro-Colombian and indigenous women, since their experiences during the conflict differ from the experiences of other women who may have not lived in conflict-affected regions. She noted that it is important to not only report on issues that affect Afro-Colombian women but to stop promoting the idea of victimhood and instead focus on stories of empowerment and perseverance. The participants also pointed out the reporting bias in Colombian media on issues that affect women from minority groups. This is most prevalent in the #MeToo movement which encourages survivors of sexual violence and abuse to share their stories and face their violators. However, this movement is very much shaped to highlight the stories of affluent women but does not focus on the stories of local women or women of color who are at a higher risk of sexual abuse and violations. It is therefore important for journalists to become familiar with the issues that affect minority groups and to eliminate all types of prejudices from their reporting.

The participants also discussed ways to stop the dissemination of false information by conservative groups in Colombia, which led to the rejection of the peace agreement during the 2016 plebiscite. GNWP is committed to continue capacity building for the media in Colombia to improve coverage of WPS issues and generate stronger support for the implementation of the peace agreement. It hopes to hold a similar workshop with journalists from local areas that have been the most affected by the war.

Colombia is the sixth country where GNWP has implemented media consultations and workshops that help strengthen the media’s understanding of WPS and encourage gender-sensitive media coverage. With the support of the Austrian Development Agency, GNWP has implemented media and WPS in Armenia, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine.

Last month GNWP traveled to the Democratic Republic of Congo and will be also implementing the same media and WPS consultations in Iraq and Nigeria with support from Global Affairs Canada.

*Kelly Yzique Zea is a Program Coordinator/Policy Specialist and Focal Point for Latin America at the Global Network of Women Peacebuilders