Soy mujer y la paz es mia! I am a Woman and Peace is Mine!

Latin America is known for its fiesty women, but never has this been as apparent as today, 22nd November, where thousands of women from across Colombia united in Bogota, demanding peace and social justice.  Marching along ‘La Septima’, Bogota’s central street to Plaza Bolivar, this monumental procession was impossible to ignore.

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Every 6 hours a Colombian woman is abused due to the armed conflict. Between 2001-2009 over 26,000 women became pregnant after being raped, and in the last decade 400,000 women were abused. Over 1,950,000 women have been registered as displaced and of that number, 30% were forced from their homes due to sexual violence 25% suffered more abuse in the areas they sought refuge. These shocking figures paint a stark picture of the issue of violence against women in Colombia but the colour, music and life of this procession provided a poignant and powerful contrast.

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Women on stilts dressed in traditional garments from the coast, old ladies hobbling along brandishing slogans such as ‘Sin mujeres la paz y democracia no va!’ (Without women there will be no peace or democracy!).  All women percussion bands, female rappers, dancers, poets.  The sun shone on these beautiful, strong women who are tired of war and of the discrimination and violence they continue to face.

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Colombian politics are a mine field.  However, the overwhelming majority support peace and acknowledge that the road to such peace must take the form of political negotiation.  These women stood up today to make sure their voices are heard both in the negotiations in Havana, but also for the reconciliation process and the democratic construction of peace which has to follow.  As many of the women making hugely moving and inspirational speeches pointed out, they make up half of the Colombian population and their voices cannot be ignored if Colombia is to stand up to its democratic standards and welcome true peace.

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The women of Colombia represent a huge diversity, from indigenous women in the Amazon region, to afro-descendant women from the coast, to business women in Bogota, yet their demands are unanimous and simple: respect, representation and peace.  There are a huge amount of organisations fighting for justice with inspiringly positive attitudes.  The ‘women for peace’ believe that they now have a historic opportunity as peace negotiations are well underway in Havana and people seem to be receptive to their message.

After so much misery and torment, the resilience these women show is truly inspiring.  We stand by these women in solidarity showing them that the international community supports their cause and is with them in their fight for justice.

Hannah Matthews

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