Category Archives: PBI Colombia

Protecting the body, mind, and heart

We are all in a continuous dialogue with our surroundings, everything that happens around us generates a response in our thoughts, emotions, and sensations. These are like speakers, indicating if we require warmth, are thirsty, or need to place limits in the face of something uncomfortable. Sensations and emotions are our first source of input to make ourselves feel well. Humans are far from machines that can do anything, we are vulnerable beings. This means that we are bodies that become ill, can learn, wake up with energy, and go to bed tired, we laugh, fall in love, get hungry or cold, we need hugs and to be listened to, we die. This vulnerability is not synonymous with weakness. On the contrary, it makes us into living beings that are connected to the ecosystem and with knowledge of our lives and the capacity to decide what we needed.

Since we are also interdependent, we do not satisfy these needs alone, but depend on those around us: a mother, a grandmother, a friend, a teammate, a partner, a neighbor, or even someone we have met on the street. That is why it is important to know how to check in with our feelings, to know what we need, and to communicate this with others. However, it is not just interdependence that contributes to care. Contexts of sociopolitical violence can systematically put our needs into question, not only as inividuals but also communities, meaning that we cannot respond to our needs and are constantly generating dissatisfaction and emotions such as fear, frustration, anger, or hopelessness.

Sociopolitical violence attacks our individual bodies and our territories, which are always connected as is noted by Latin American feminists when they speak of the “body territory”. Hence, sociopolitical violence attacks the social fabric, seeking to break trust and ties between individuals and that is done through fear, stress, and hopelessness, among other forms. If we become afraid to act, act on impulse without evaluating our needs, become isolated, or believe that nothing can change, we are experiencing manifestations of fear’s emotional strategy. Attacking the body, mind, and heart of individuals and communities is a clear element. A pained body, tensions that last years, a mind full of concerns, and a hopeless heart are part of this formula of fear, as a tool of war. Violence produces all of this in us, with major impacts on our health and the strength of the connections that we create.

What can we do in response? We propose focusing on care, even though this is often difficult. Care does not mean always feeling good, it is not just about laying down to rest, it is everything we do to address adverse situations. Within this concept of care, it is fundamental to protect the body, mind, and heart since all violence impacts us on those levels. Body, mind, and heart are always united and what affects one affects the rest. From PBI’s holistic protection work, we want to emphasize some care practices that we have seen in our work in Colombia.

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“A Common Commitment to Accompany”

We offer a warm welcome to our seven new field brigadistas who collectively reflected on their arrival

The people saying hi in this photo are: Mari Carmen (Spain) who accompanies from the field team in Bogotá, whereas Ana (Mexico), Brenda (Spain), and Carlos (Nicaragua) will accompany from Barrancabermeja, and Leticia (Brazil), Louise (France), and Adrià (Spain) from Apartadó.

“As new volunteers, we have finished the selection process and initial training to join our field teams. Even though this means that the group that arrived together had to divide up, we have stayed in contact, talking about our different integration experiences, the diversity of perspectives we have, and how we are building relationships with the people we accompany and our teammates. The group has shown a common interest in and commitment to accompanying and learning from the people, organizations, and communities that defend human rights and have been accompanied by PBI over the last 28 years”.

Welcome!

PBI Colombia

 

Care Is Protecting Life: A gathering of women defenders

Between 24 and 27 February, PBI Colombia held a Gathering of Women Defenders in La Vega. Women leaders and defenders participated from throughout the Colombian territory.

The women are active in peaceful resistance with the Peace Community of San José de Apartadó (Antioquía)they are leaders from the Peasant Association of the Cimitarra River Valley (ACVC), the Humanitarian Action Corporation for Coexistence and Peace in Northeast Antioquia (CAHUCOPANA), the Regional Corporation for the Defense of Human Rights (CREDHOS), and the Social Corporation for Community Advisory and Training Services (COSPACC), all of which are emblematic organizations that work for the rights of the peasantry and communities affected by the armed conflict in the Magdalena Medio, Northeast of Antioquia, and Casanare. They are women involved in the struggle and relatives of victims of forced disappearance from Buenaventura, with the Movement of Victims of State Crimes (MOVICE), and from Bogotá the Nydia Erika Bautista Foundation (FNEB). As well as women human rights lawyers from Bucaramanga, Bogotá, and Medellín—from the Luis Carlos Pérez Lawyers’ Collective (CCALCP), Dh Colombia, and the Corporation for Judicial Freedom (CJL), Ties of Dignity (Lazos con Dignidad) and the Feminist Scheme for the Protection of Human Rights (Esquema Feminista de Protección de Derechos Humanos)—which defend victims of state crimes and police violence and they accompany initatives that propose peace from the regions. All of them, diverse women, came together in that diversity and united their struggles and protection tools in a collective, transformative effort that called collective memory into the present.

Continue reading Care Is Protecting Life: A gathering of women defenders

Call for applications: PBI Colombia Training

PBI Colombia would like to announce a call for applications to our 2022 Training Encounter

Applications will be accepted until May 9, 2022.  All applications (with references) received until this date will be considered for the training and selection process leading to a training and selection encounter to be determined at a future date,  which will take place in Spain.

More information here (Spanish language only)

Protecting the Essence

“As women we are diverse and today we come together amid that diversity.” Those were the opening words at the Gathering of Women Defenders organized by PBI Colombia, held in La Vega this past 24 to 27 of February. Colombian women, from their Indigenous, Afro-descendant, and mixed-race ancestry of resistance have taught us something essential about protection: it is also necessary to protect our spirit, our sense of being, our center, our essence.

This protection is not as visible as a fence or armored car, but it sustains organizational efforts as roots hold up a tree. Many scientists now talk about the importance of roots in primary forests, how they are intertwined with the roots of other trees as a greater community that accompanies the forests, from underground.

We have also been shown how these roots, thanks to mycorrhiza, transmit information that keeps the forest healthy and favors growth in the smallest and sickest trees. This paradigm shift is still pending within the western perspective; an understanding of the connection between humans and nature (the nature that we carry inside us and the external nature that cares for us). This language reaffirms what women, Indigenous, and Afro-Colombian peoples have been saying for so long: there is so much beyond what our eyes see.

Protecting our roots is protecting what remains invisible yet sustains us. Roots sustain the trunk, hold the earth in place, and maintain the forest even when it is burned. “If the forest burns, let it burn, that same vine will sprout again,” as a song states. This also happens with protection, strong and collective roots are part of the protection that we provide as individuals, communities, and organizations.

There are many ways to protect our essence, depending on our world vision and culture, depending on our history. Through the many spaces that PBI Colombia has shared with women leaders, defenders, and organizations we have identified the importance of once again asking ourselves: What keeps us united in our efforts? What are our values?  What connects us to life and the defense of rights and the territory?

Sociopolitical violence and abrupt and unexpected transformations, such as the pandemic, can lead us to lose sight of the horizon we are moving towards and where we came from. It can put us in a state of emergency, reacting to events. And over time we can lose that profound “why” in the essence of what we do and our connection to life.

We want to highlight three paths to protect that essence, which we identify as powerful, necessary, and inspirational

First, a coming together of the generations to dialogue on how we understand the values that sustain us as a community or organization and that connect us to the defense of human rights; second, the space for and vindication of our own culture, with the symbols, rituals, songs, languages, or education that comprise it; and third, a collective and creative construction of memory.

This dimension of protection, at times invisible, is fundamental, and like all the other dimensions it must be taken care, even when it is underground. For that reason, today on 8 of March, the international day for the rights of women workers and girls, we ask ourselves once again: Why do we continue accompanying after 27 years in Colombia?

Perhaps, as is reflected in the etymological meaning of spirit, it is because it helps us breathe. After all, it gives us air to walk the path of constructing spaces built on solidarity, peace, and friendship. Breathing in collective, with other women, allows us to recognize ourselves in others, to strengthen the invisible network of which we are a part, constructing safe spaces out of vulnerability and interdependence. Today, 8 of March, we do not want to forget all of the contributions made, day in and day out, by women leaders and defenders to understand protection from a holistic lens, understanding that protection and care always go hand in hand. A very special thanks to all the women, women leaders and human rights defenders, who inspire us every day.

PBI Colombia.