(March 13, 2002. San José, FIRE)

Women from different national and regional organizations* in Colombia came together on March 8, 2002 to draft and disseminate a comprehensive analysis and plan of action to influence the dying peace process in their country. The press conference were they announced their plan was covered live vía telephone by Feminist International Radio Endeavour´s webcast marathon that day.

According to convener, Patricia Buriticá of the national workers union confederation, they are concerned that the militaristic projects will “bring new international actors into the conflict that rather than making the situation better, can deepen the war.”

They met at the Hotel at 10:00 a.m. that day, to present the demands and actions that they will undertake to have a say for a peaceful and negotiated solution. “A day for thought, for dreams, for proposals and actions” they called their day. In commemoration of the 8th of March, they stated that “One hundred and forty five years ago today, 129 female textile workers in a factory in New York who were on strike for labor rights were closed in and incinerated in the work place. Today we commemorate this day by “Uniting all of our voices and actions against the war.” 

Gloria Tobón stated on FIRE that “in the midst of this holocaust that takes away the possibilities of a future for colombian people, women have decided to stick to a position of civil resistance and our demand for a negotiated solution to the armed conflict.  For this purpose we need to undertake multiple actions of protest to demand a change of attitude by the government and the armed groups… that is why in May, we will launch a big campaign to mobilize campesina women, indigenous women, women workers and women in the popular movements and academia to “take over” the city of Bogotá on the 16th, to show and express our demand for peace.”

She added that “it is true that in Colombia we have a problem of drug dealing and planting, but that is not the only problem we have, and the rest of the situation cannot be overshadowed by these two problematics. We have structural problems: poverty and the lack of exercise of political, social, cultural and economic rights rights. The drug problem is one we inherited our of the endemic 50 year old conflict. It is used to justify the support for more war. The Plan Colombia and the support of the USA has meant more war and the ones who is paying the price is civil society. Women in particular are very much affected by it in every aspect of our lives. We need to build a strong civil movement today in order to counteract the deepening of the war and the conflict. This piece of the planet is in agony because of the bullets.  We need civil representation at the negotiation table and women have to be a part of that representation. The militaristic model of negotiation was born to fail: no civil actors, no détente and no basic agreement to the respect of human rights and humanitarian law. How could that have lead to peace? Impossible. We have to demand a change of the nature of the peace talks.”

What follows is their statement (translated from Spanish into English by Feminist International Radio Endeavor): “The rupture of the peace process will create an even more cruel and painful situation for women, whose rights have already been violated by the different armed actors, before, during and after the rupture of the dialogues between Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and the Government.

“Retaliations because of the way we love, assassinations of women simply because we are the girlfriends, friends, mothers, sisters or lovers of the police and soldiers, of the guerrillas or members of the AUC (paramilitary); hangings and public scorn because of the way they dress; loss of our rights to move freely through the streets, communities and side roads; selective assassinations, cataloguing women as auxiliaries to one or the other side [of the conflict]; the rape of women of all ages by the different actors in confrontation; internal and external displacements; occupations of our homes by armed bands who turn them into headquarters for their military operations; prohibition of the possibilities of bringing back, mourning and burying the dead; closing down of schools and colleges and the further overburdening of the domestic work of women. These are some of the facts of daily life of millions of us women in Colombia, a country at war.

“The alternatives for political negotiations are in a grave crisis today. The exclusive model [of negotiation] applied by both the government and FARC, which is characterized by lack of social participation, negotiations in the midst of confrontation, and no previous agreement about the respect of human rights and international humanitarian rights to protect the population provided for a process that was born to fail.

“The process with the National Liberation Army (ELN) does not move forward either. However, from the perspective of the social women’s movement and the citizen’s movement for peace, we insist in a negotiated solution.

“We are terrorized by the spectacle of the war which is no more and no less than the patriarchal concept that believes that war is the birth mother of history and of humanity, and that, unfortunately, today defines the destinies of the world and our country. 

“We have seen today, the conformation of a “Para-State” that has replaced the institutionality, that imposes cohersitive norms on civilians and totally destroys the democratic model of authority.   

“The war economy implies that poor women in Colombia have less possibilities of participation, more unemployment, and a cut-down of all social programs that have been conquered by the social women’s movement in its search for the rights that we continue to claim.

“Women do not give birth nor do we forge new lives for the war! We urge the disarmament of our bodies and spirits. We do not want any other armed solutions. We need civilian and civilized responses to the social and armed conflicts. The militarization of life itself, both in the city and in the countryside, only conducts to the expansion of violence and the presence of new actor in the war.

“We propose: The construction of a NATIONAL WOMEN´S MOVEMENT AGAINST WAR, which will become a permanent process in which actions, events and activities will converge as the starting point for a GRAND NATIONAL MOBILIZATION OF WOMEN AGAIST THE WAR next May 16 with the arrival of thousands of women to the Plaza Simón Bolívar in Bogotá City.

“WE CALL: On women and men who are in a civilian, autonomous, and democratic opposition on behalf of dignified conditions of life to participate in an organized fashion, mobilizing from all corners of the country: Against the war, for a negotiated solution, for the de-militarization of civil life and the recuperation of civilized life for all Colombian men and women, and for the direct and autonomous participation of women in the negotiations and the peace process.”

 

*CONVENERS were: MESA NACIONAL DE CONCERTACIÓN DE MUJERES. (ANMUCIC, ANUC-UR, FEDEMUC, MOVIMIENTO NACIONAL DE MUJERES AUTORAS ACTORAS DE PAZ, MOVIMIENTO POPULAR DE MUJERES, DIALOGO MUJER, CENTRAL UNITARIA DE TRABAJADORES-CUT, ASODEMUC, PROYECTO PASOS, MUJERES DE INZA, CASA DE LA MUJER, ASAMBLEA DE LA SOCIEDAD CIVIL POR LA PAZ, RED DE MUJERES JÓVENES FEMINISTAS POR LA PAZ,  FUNDACIÓN ABRIENDO CAMINOS A LA DIFERENCIA, RED DISTRITAL DE SALUD DE LA MUJER DEL SECTOR POPULAR); ORGANIZACIÓN FEMENINA POPULAR, RUTA PACIFICA DE MUJERES POR LA RESOLUCIÓN NEGOCIADA  DE LOS CONFLICTOS, RED NACIONAL DE MUJERES and REDEPAZ.

 

ADHERENTS were: PAZ COLOMBIA MUJERES UNIDAS POR UNA COLOMBIA MEJOR, MUJERES ARTISTAS POR LA VIDA Y POR LA PAZ, COLECTIVO DE JÓVENES  HUITACA, FUNDACIÓN PUERTAS DE ESPERANZA, FUNDACIÓN SEDES, RED DE MUJERES COMUNITARIAS DE ALTOS DE CAZUCA,  ASOCIACION JUANA DE ARCO, ASOCIACION DE MUJERES COMUNITARIAS DE PUENTEARANDA, SINTRADAVID RESTREPO  and INSTITUTO MARIA CANO. ISMAC.

 

FIRE also interviewed Dr. Roberto Cuellar, director of the Interamerican Human Rights Institute that day. The IIDH has a special women´s human rights program in Colombia, because of their concern about their particular situation. “The human rights of women are of special concern to us in that case. There is a deepening of the crisis because many Colombians are demanding “strong hands” from the candidates for the elections these coming months, but at the same time there is no motive to believe that the guerrilla warfare and the paramilitary forces can be suffocated by the armed forces.”

 

In this situation, the displacement of women and their families, the increment in the repression of women and the overburdening of them in the domestic work is terrible. In this situation, it is very easy to loose patience, but what is not lost is hope. We can see it is the faces and creative action that women have undertaken in places like Barancabermeja, Valle Supar, Urrabá, Caney and Buenaventura. Women there are showing that is it possible to be al least partially successful in resisting and in taking away battles to the war (restarle batallas a la guerra) when they struggle for the return of the displaced population to their places of origin; when they struggle for the civil control of the armed groups and when they put up a good fight for the humanization of life in Colombia.”

 

I think women should be at the negotiating table. They are an expression of the fact that not all Colombians are addicted to violence and that their country can no long continue to be a democracy that is the home for the thugs and the traders of crime. Civil society should support the successful experiences of the women´s movement there. Women have a very important role to play in pressuring for the creation of more demilitarized zones od distention, but not for the armed groups, but for civil society so that it can define in them what it wants for the future of that beautiful and culturally rich country of the Americas.”

 

That 8th of March, after listening to the Colombian women, and after receiving 312 letters of support for the displaced women of El Caguán from Italy, France, the Americas, Europe, Africa and USA and Canada, FIRE has made a commitment to continue supporting the Colombian women so that they can have a voice internationally.

 

In a second part of the webcast marathon FIRE presented an interview with Angela Cuevas and Norma Bermúdez. Their organization also drafted a document entitled:  “WHO SAYS EVERYTHING IS LOST IN COLOMBIA? COLOMBIAN WOMEN INSIST THAT THE WAR STOP NOW”, which states that “We, the women, watched a  peace process between the government and the FARC    being born in a death agony because of its exclusive model without social   basis, and in the same way we watch with horror a war show  that is just the  continuation of a backward and ungainly patriarchal  concept that takes war  as the midwife of history and humanity and that, unfortunately today defines  the fate of the world and of our country.

”We know, with the wisdom of centuries of pain, exclusions and struggle, that arrogance is a bad counsellor in making any kind of decision. That hard words  and a hard heart  are not not possible when the life and dignity of   populations are hanging in the balance. That is why today we raise our songs to life, to peace and to social justice,  trying to make them heard above the trumpets and drums of war.

”We will not play along with the traffickers of death, with the sellers of  magic formulas, with those who make of misery and pain an entertainment, with  those who design strategies and mechanisms to get rich and show off while  many other people are getting killed.

”Let it be clear that we persist in looking for negotiated solutions for our  country, in building up life and society  in the midst of the barbarism and  desolation that others are trying to impose on us as our destiny.

”Since patience and stubbornness, tolerance and solidarity continue on our side, we will refuse to send our sons to war and we will not support any act of humilliation and violence in the homes, the streets, the suburbs, the cities, the villages and the settlements.

”We will continue analyzing alternatives for the development of the country, educating our sons and daughters, marching, singing, working, loving, weaving  initiatives, giving birth to projects of liberation. From so much effort,  another kind of peace process must be born: one that includes us, as well as  all the ethnic groups, the generations, the social classes and religions,  those who live in the countryside and those who live in the cities, those  with different political affiliations and with different  professions.

”Reason, which has been so much sold to us as male patrimony and rationality,  is today on our side. We have the clarity and the will to create solutions  with less arrogance and more tenderness, with more sanity and more  generosity, based, neither in profit nor in honor but in the dignity and the  happiness we deserve.
   
”This is a historical opportunity to change the model with which the conflicts  are faced in our country and in the world. The time has come to raise our  voices and our proposals and demonstrate to the powerful that as a country,  we still have the chance to build a solution which is decent and generous.

”We call on all  Colombian Women NOT to allow that from their hands and wombs  spring food for violence and war.

”We call on international women's organizations, stateswomen, and women  politicians to lobby their governments so that women's and children's lives  are respected and a new scenario of negotiated peace develops with the  participation of women, and of all those  who so far have been excluded from  the decisions about whether to go to war or to reach a peaceful solution to  Colombia's conflict. Consensus of Women from The Peace Boat, the Way of Peace for the Women of  Colombia.”

Spokeswomen for the initiative are:

Nazly Lozano,

Norma Bermudez,

Elizabeth Caicedo,

Maria Lastenia Pito,

Consuelo Davila,

Marta Fernandez,

Margarita Pacheco,

Maria Gabriela  Mendez,

Angela Cuevas.
www.Embarcapazcolombia.org
or write fida@calipso.com.co

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