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.
Tag Archives: Women Human Rights Defenders
The Tale of the 2023 Women Defenders Gathering
Once upon a time, there was a bird on a beach…
Once upon a time, ten lionesses…
Once upon a time, twenty women defenders…
Between 15 and 18 February, 25 women came together in La Mesa, Cundinamarca. Women from different Colombian territories and PBI accompaniers from several countries: San José de Apartadó, Cali, Vistahermosa, and Puerto Rico in Meta, Bogotá, Catatumbo, Remedios, Sur de Bolívar, Barrancabermeja, Puerto Asís, Portugal, Spain, and the United States. The youngest woman among us was 24 years old and the oldest was 72. We came from organizations such as ACVC, ADISPA, ASCAMCAT, CAHUCOPANA, CAJAR, the Peace Community, CSPP, CREDHOS, DH Colombia, Karisma, LIMPAL, MOVICE, NOMADESC, and PBI. Each with our stories, our dreams, and our pain.
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Julia Figueroa: “Defend the Peace Accords from inside Catatumbo It has become a very high risk “
For decades Catatumbo has been the epicenter of sociopolitical violence and armed conflict. The region encompasses ten municipalities in the department of Norte de Santander, on the Venezuelan border. The 2016 signature of the Peace Agreement brought hope of peace and a dignified life for the communities. However, the lack of its comprehensive implementation has obstructed addressing the armed conflict’s structural causes and has left communities at the mercy of intensifying violence. The Luis Carlos Pérez Lawyers Collective (CCALCP)—a group of women lawyers and human rights defenders with 22 years of experience defending human rights—is one of the organizations that accompanies the Catatumbo Peasant Association (ASCAMCAT) and the peasant communities of Catatumbo, whom they represent through strategic litigation to demand compliance with the Peace Agreement.
According to Julia Figueroa, president of the lawyers collective, the peasant communities of Catatumbo have experienced a violation of their rights due to non-compliance with the Peace Agreement and, in particular, due to the humanitarian and economic crisis caused by non-compliance with the National Comprehensive Program for Illicit Use Crop Substitution (PNIS) established in point 4 of the Agreement. Specifically, the Government promised to implement the PNIS to generate the material conditions for well-being and a good life in communities that subsist on illicit use crops, as is stipulated in point 4.1. The population that CCALCP represents is part of the first PNIS pilot plan, which began in 2017 in four rural communities of Tibú (Catatumbo), these are: Caño Indio, Palmeras Mirador, Chiquinquirá, and Progreso 2.
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Women Searching for Victims of Enforced Disappearance Await Dignity
The time has come for Colombia to support the efforts of women and others searching for victims of enforced disappearance. Women suffer very serious human rights violations while, individually or collectively, searching for loved ones, including sexual violence, kidnapping, privation of liberty, extortion, threats, and reprisals.
The leadership role is not recognized by society or even the Colombian state, which is often, “a spoke in the wheel” of compliance on existing laws relative to enforced disappearance. “In many cases, officials do not fulfill their job due to negligence, indifference and indolence,” say women searchers.
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Women defending water in Magdalena Medio under threat
The Escazú Agreement was recently ratified in Colombia, following three years where the legislation was blocked by the government of Iván Duque. This is an important milestone in the protection of the rights of women environmental defenders in what remains by far the most dangerous country in the world for the defense of the environment.
The Escazú Agreement contains specific sections focused on environmentalists, promotes the protection of environmental leaders, provides increased access to environmental-related information, and increased mechanisms to ensure the effective participation of civil society. These mechanisms are crucial in a country where, in the last decade alone, 322 environmental defenders have been assassinated. 2021 was the most lethal year for those defending the land and the environment, during which 33 people were killed.
Of particular concern is the intensification of attacks against environmentalists in the region of Magdalena Medio, particularly the attacks against women environmental defenders who are defending water and life. It is increasingly the case that attacks against women environmental leaders in the region occur while they are carrying out their work denouncing the oil industry and its links with armed structures, in addition to corruption involving local public officials.
One of the most serious cases involves the sustained attacks on environmental leader Yuli Andrea Velásquez Briceño, president of the Federation of Artisanal, Environmental and Tourist Fishermen of Santander (Fedepesán) and executive director of the National Network of Artisanal Fisherwomen, a network which will be officially inaugurated on November 26, 2022. Yuli introduces herself as an “amphibious being, daughter of a murdered fisherman, born and raised on the banks of the Magdalena River”, Colombia’s main artery. The leader is clear about where her risks come from: “we defend our territory, we bring attention to the pollution being caused by industry, and we oppose the armed groups that have ties to the companies [operating in the area]. When a defender denounces the entities that should guarantee environmental conservation, they begin to receive threats because of the relationships that those entities have with armed actors. In an attempt to silence us, we become victims of systematic attacks.”
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