During the 2023 Women Defenders Gathering, we came together, our hands filled with objects from our territories and we built a protection circle. A mandala that enveloped the space, welcoming us during the gathering and witnessing manifold beautiful moments of creation, tenderness, and dialogue among women. The protection circle was represented in six moments, each one named based on the participants’ feelings and built out of spontaneity and from the desire to bring our demands and desires to that space. We identified six pillars of protection for women defenders, pillars that are tied to protecting what we are, protecting our dreams.
Women Who Protect and Create
In front of the flag of Cahucopana, one of the organizations present, a soap made by another participant, Olga, a totumo that is important to Liliana, some seeds, and a few reports about the Magdalena Medio, we talked about women’s role in building a peaceful Colombia. We talked about what we do with our hands: weaving life, protecting territories, organizing, dialoguing, sowing… These are some of the verbs that accompany women defenders and activists who, with their hands, protect and weave new realities. What we do with our hands, with our energy and efforts, protects the territory and protects us.
Ancestral Ties: Plants, knowledge, life
Rice from the Peace Community, beans, fire, and black stone accompanied us. We were accompanied by a knowledge that is transmitted from mouth to ear, from grandmothers to granddaughters, between neighbors. This knowledge has sustained life since the beginning of time. We remembered how Colombian ancestry is rich and diverse in seeds, cultures, deities, and remedies. The path to recover, transmit, and revalue this knowledge, of connecting with our ancestry, with the grandmothers, accompanied us even in the group itself. The youngest woman, Angie, is 24 and the oldest, doña Brígida, is almost 72. These are generations that are recovering the value of a woven bag and the stories it speaks. Transmitting our truths, the truths of our grandmothers, protects us.
Fruits of Memory: Between longing and sweetness
Guama, sapote, lemons, honey, essential oils, a fan, a dream catcher woven by Angie, and a poem from a mother to a grandmother and a granddaughter, Inés. Our essence fills us with emotion, emotions that connect us to each other, even if we are from distant corners of the planet. It connects us to longing and sadness, it connects us to the memory of deceased or disappeared family, it connects us so we can tell of our own story through wool, a poem, or with words. This is how we find ourselves, between longing and the sweetness of the fruits we harvest. Connecting with each other protects us.
Visibility to Walk the Path of Memory and Healing
Letting our voices out, through a report, a T-shirt, or singing together also protects us. But not just in any way, instead we feel a release, knots are undone, and there is a space that helps to hold us up and transform the pain. Here we asked ourselves the question of how to heal, how to heal so much pain, so many unspoken words and so many to be said. Memory, as we said, building our collective memory helps us to not forget and not carry our pain alone.
Resistance… Territory, Autonomy, Rootedness, Strength, Creation, Sweetness…
We connect with forms of resistance, those windows of hope, possibility, truth, affection, tenderness, and nourishment that we open. We talked about all the living beings that accompany us in the mountains, jungles, and seas and the importance of caring for them as they care for the ecosystem. We spoke of our seeds and the importance of learning to sow and to sew, as a way to transform pain and be rooted to our territories. This is how we began, little by little, to name all the windows that allow us draw out and express ourselves, using our own voice. Nature and our resistance protect us.
Expressions of Healing: Art and women’s organizing
This is where art flourished. Organization and mutual support among women, initiatives to provide care in moments of crisis and bereavement arose and… the table was filled with color, everything we can imagine and create through collective organizing. This protects our ability to create new realities too.
And that is how we closed the circle, a circle of elements that protect women. They protect our bodies, our pain, our stories, and our dreams. Being aware of all these elements, bringing them to the present through objects and words, helped us to build a shared space. It helped us to find each other.
Many thanks to all the women who participated in the 2023 Women Defenders Gathering, women who filled us with love, reflections, and hope.