Stepping into a New Territory: GNWP’s First Localization Workshop with Indigenous Authorities and Indigenous Women Activists in Colombia

Stepping into a New Territory: GNWP’s First Localization Workshop with Indigenous Authorities and Indigenous Women Activists in Colombia

By: Lauren von Eckartsberg, Global Network of Women Peacebuilders

February 10, 2016

Though the Global Network of Women Peacebuilders (GNWP) has worked in Colombia for several years and has invited indigenous women and leaders to participate in past events, the workshop on February 5, 2016 marked its first ever localization workshop with indigenous authorities and indigenous women activists in Colombia.  The GNWP team was very excited to take this next step of bringing the localization strategy to communities that not only feel the effects of conflict in different ways than other communities, but also have very distinct community plans.

Under the leadership of Corporación de Investigación y Acción Social y Económica (CIASE) and in collaboration and with the participation of leaders in the Consejo Nacional de Mujeres Indigenas de Colombia (CONAMIC – formerly known as Red PIEMISIKUPANAYAF), the workshop began in a very intimate setting with participants introducing themselves to the plenary and stating their personal and community resolutions for being present.  One participant posed the question to the audience, “Indigenous women have to work from the essence, which is the fight for our rights.  Everyone knows ‘Peace for All,’ but what does it mean? We as indigenous women want to be included in the agreements, resolutions and solutions.  We have a lot to do, and thank you for this opportunity to think from the heart.”

Rosa Emilia Salamanca from CIASE opened the event by setting the scene and explaining the context in indigenous communities.  She poses, “We think about the peace agreement as happening over there in Havana far from us and without us, which in many ways is true, but in other ways, it will have a huge impact on us and as men and women we need to prepare ourselves to have the capacity to deal with these things that will happen and take this opportunity to fight for our rights and our lands.”

The next speaker was GNWP’s Peace Exchange member, Yolanda de Paz from ASOMOVIDINQ, an indigenous Guatemalan women’s organization working with victims and families of survivors of the Guatemalan conflict.  Sharing her experiences as an indigenous Guatemalan woman activist, she was able to show differences in the Guatemalan context, yet similarities in advocating for indigenous women’s rights in a space where their lands are being taken away and their bodies have been used as battlefields to commit acts of war.

The workshop continued with Mavic Cabrera Balleza of GNWP explaining the localization model and how a large part of its goal is to have local communities interact with policy-makers so that the people who will be most effected by policies will benefit the most.  She emphasized that the localization strategy is model and that based on its applicability, it can be modified to fit the context of the communities of the local indigenous participants.  She further explained that the workshops goal is to come up with concrete outputs that can be brought to the process of create local community plans, which in some indigenous communities in Colombia are called, Planes de Vida, or Life Plans.

The next session of the workshop was sharing the findings from the monitoring report on UNSCR 1325 in indigenous communities carried out by CONAMIC. The four main findings from the report were:

  • Indigenous women are lacking in participation – they are mainly seen as invisible and for this reason they thanked their local authorities for participating in the workshop to show their support.
  • There needs to be materialization of women’s rights to raise their visibility
  • There needs to be an implementation of UNSCR 1325.  There have been laws passed for indigenous peoples, but they haven’t been realized, especially at the local level where they’re needed most.
  • Indigenous women want to be included in the peace process.

 

Participants later formed groups to postulate how to create points of entry within Life Plans to insert women’s rights and their access to peaceful and secure lives.  The participants decided that despite the differences in Life Plans, most contain key themes related to: territory; justice and self-governance; education and culture; health and equilibrium with nature; and food sovereignty and economic independence.   After considerable work, each group shared with the plenary its points within each theme that they saw as necessary to bring back to their communities and address during discussions on forming, changing and adding to Life Plans.

The workshop ended with powerful statements by participants expressing the urgency for indigenous women’s voices to be heard and their strength to be recognized as legitimate rather than going against their culture.  Mary Inez from Florida eloquently expressed the difficulties indigenous women face when she stated, “Our voices aren’t going to be heard if we don’t raise them.  So obviously we have to take a risk. There will be censure. There will be questions. They will think we are dividing the people and destroying the community.  Despite this, we will still continue.”  A governor from the Wayuü community added, “As a Wayuü indigenous men, I want to congratulate this group of women for this work they’ve done in their territories.  Without women we are nothing and neither are our lands.”

 

For further media from the workshop, please visit GNWP’s Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and Flickr accounts.

This blog was written by Lauren von Eckartsberg and does not necessarily represent the views of the Global Network of Women Peacebuilders.

For any questions or comments regarding the contents, please write to the author at: [email protected]