The plane is small, with exactly two propellers and two wings. It is flying us back to Bogotá from the city of Quibdó, where GNWP held its third Localization of the Resolution 1325 workshop in Colombia. The first workshop took place on September 17 and 18 in Cali, the biggest city in the Valle of Cauca district.
What is striking about Cali is not its size, but its obvious concern with security. Barbwire, metal bars and heavy fences guard stores, houses, hotels, and apartment buildings alike. In Popayán, where our second workshop was held, there are fewer metal bars. However, the army—young boys in uniforms carrying machine guns—takes over the streets of the city in the evening and through the night; Popayán is the capital of the Cauca department, one of the regions in Colombia most affected by armed conflict. Quibdó, the location for the third workshop, is the capital city of the poorest department in Colombia. It beats Cali in terms of protective fences, and yet somehow, it manages to be an incredibly welcoming city. Whether in Cali, Popayán, Quibdó or Bogotá, it is impossible to miss that security is of major concern in Colombia. And yet Colombia does not have a National Action Plan for the implementation of the principal Women, Peace and Security resolutions adopted by the UN Security Council: Resolution 1325 and the supporting Resolutions 1820, 1888, 1889 and 1960.
In Cali, Popayán, and Quibdó, the objective of the GNWP workshop was the same: to share with local authorities the provisions of the Resolutions 1325 and 1820 so that they could evaluate if and how these international laws on Women, Peace and Security could be integrated into local policies and local development plans. A bottom-up approach to the implementation of Resolution 1325, these workshops in Colombia were part of a GNWP project that enables local actors to examine the applicability and use of Resolution 1325 to address the specific peace and security concerns in their communities with a particular focus on women’s participation in decision-making and all peace processes; and sexual violence prevention. Through a series of presentations and small group work, the various local government representatives identified the provisions of Resolution 1325 that would reinforce or fill gaps in their own development plans.
In Cali, representatives from the Palmira, Cali and Buenaventura municipalities found that their municipalities already had a number of policies that dealt with the three pillars of Resolution 1325: women’s participation in decision-making positions and peacebuilding processes, the prevention of violence and human rights abuses against women and girls, and the protection of women and women victims of all kinds of violence. However, in spite of the existing local and national policies, local governance emphasized that domestic violence and violence among armed groups continue to affect women disproportionally. Elizabeth Ortega Carvajal, from the Palmira municipality, stressed the importance of empowering women and girls to be active participants in security forces, though she specified: “We want our women in uniforms, but not with guns.” Mavic Cabrera-Balleza, our own International Coordinator, added that our purpose as civil society working on Women, Peace and Security is never to make war safe for women, but to do away with war and armed conflict altogether. At the end of the workshop, participants listed their personal and municipal commitments. The three municipalities represented—Palmiras, Buenaventura, and Cali—decided to develop an Action Plan for the implementation of Resolution 1325 and the supporting resolutions (1829, 1888, 1889, 1960) at the departmental level. Local Authorities from Palmira play a coordinating role. They committed to convoke the “Grupo de 8” or 8 mayors of the Valle del Cauca department to assist a capacity-building workshop on Resolution 1325 and the supporting resolutions. Local authorities from Valle del Cauca are on their way to developing a departmental Action Plan for the implementation of Resolution 1325 and the supporting resolutions with the participation of their mayors, local civil society groups and their communities.
Following the workshop in Cali, we headed to the city of Popayán, where we were welcomed by Stella Millán de Ortega, wife of Governor Temístocles Ortega Narváez. The recently elected governor opened the workshop by confirming that the new administrative structure of the department will include a Women’s Office that will be responsible for implementing gender policies. A dozen municipalities were represented. While only one government official has ever heard of Resolution 1325 prior to the workshop, all found that their development plans included the central provisions of the resolution. However, when describing their respective municipalities, almost all the participants lamented that there is a huge gap between the policies in place and the actual situation for women living in their communities. Officials from the Argelia Mejor and Miranda municipalities spoke of the endurance of a culture of silence when it comes to sexual violence. Women seldom denounce out of fear and shame, and if and when they do, they are blamed for the abuse they experienced. Gloria Ines Ducuara, a representative from the civil society organization Red Municipal de Mujeres de Caldono, added that women often did not report domestic violence because of financial dependence on their partners. “If women are financially independent,” Gloria explained, “they will not put up with domestic violence and abuse.” Like in Cali, there was a clear consensus among the local authorities present that it is key to have the support of the mayors in this work of diffusion of international resolutions on Women, Peace and Security, so as to be able to encourage and track their implementations at the local level. The mayors, they explained, control the resources and have the most power in the municipalities. Florencia is an example of a municipality where the mayor already supports initiatives dealing with gender equality. In municipalities where there is no such support, the local authorities committed to engaging their mayors, fellow officials and communities in
discussion of the Resolutions 1325 and 1820, as well as on Women, Peace and Security issues in general. The workshop concluded with the agreement that each municipality will conduct awareness raising workshops on the Resolution 1325 in November, the month of the Civic Day of Colombian Women and the International day of Non-violence Against Women.
In Quibdó, local officials from ten municipalities in the Chocó department participated in the Localization workshop. The workshop took place right in the middle of the three-week long San Pacho—a yearly holiday celebrating San Pacho or St. Francis of Assisi, Quibdó’s patron saint. The festive atmosphere did not in any way attenuate the local officials’ concerns regarding the harsh realities faced by their communities, particularly by women in their municipalities. Like in Cali and Popayán, the limited resources and the importance of the participation of the mayors in the discussion were discussed at length. Wilman Sanchez, from the Rio Iro, emphasized that even if resources are scarce and the mayors may be initially uncooperative, it is not an excuse to “remain with our arms crossed.” Luis Alfredo Garces Robledo, from Carmen del Darien, added that it is indeed the local officials mandate to make sure that the rights of each and every individual are respected, and there is greater women’s participation in governance and in high-level positions in generals. Like in Cali and Popayán, there was barely any awareness of Resolution 1325 on the part of local officials participating. The lack of Internet access to look directly at the Development Plans made the simultaneous close-reading of the development plans and Resolution 1325 difficult. Nonetheless, all officials committed to read closely their own Development Plans as a follow-up to the workshop. While all together in Quibdó, they decided to plan a forum that would regroup mayors, other municipal officials and civil society to discuss Resolution 1325 and the supporting resolutions. Gloria Luna Rivillas, from the Red de Mujeres Chocoanas (Chocó Women’s Network), stressed the importance of including officials from the diverse communities in the Chocó department. In the predominantly Afro-Colombian region, it is crucial for the indigenous communities to take part in the work around the Resolution 1325. More than in any other regions, the synergy between women representatives from civil society and the local authorities of Chocó was palpable throughout the workshop. Together, women from the Chocó Women’s Network and local authorities epxressed that with work at the local level—a bottom-up approach to the integration and implementation of Resolution 1325—they hope to better the situation for women in their communities. The first step will be the multiplication of workshops on 1325 and the extensive diffusion of information on Resolution 1325 in their offices and their communities. Chocó Women’s Network will ensure that regular communication among the local officials continues and that commitments are fulfilled.
It is evening, and we have left Chocó with commitments of our own: to stay in contact as well, and to put together a packet of materials on Resolution 1325 and the supporting resolutions in Spanish with our members and partners here in Colombia, Red Nacional de Mujeres (National Women’s Network) and Corporación de Investigación y Acción Social y Económica-CIASE(Corporation for Research and Social and Economic Action). We will also support projects of local authorities that aim for the better awareness and more effective implementation of Resolution 1325 at the local level, by endorsing their proposals in writing and by sharing lists of potential donors supportive of projects on Women, Peace and Security. These commitments we have made to participants in the other workshops as well, in Popayán and in Cali. As the Global Network of Women Peacebuilders, we promise to fulfill these commitments to the best of our ability.
We thank the Folke Bernadotte Academy and Cordaid for supporting this project.