Role of Women in Colombian peace process

The 2016 Colombian peace accord that ended one of the world’s longest-running armed conflicts is now being carried out, and the country faces the massive task of reintegrating former fighters and fostering reconciliation. The half-century war killed at least 220,000 people, uprooted more than 6 million, and left some 8 million registered victims. Under the deal between the Colombian government and the FARC, almost 10,000 guerrillas will demobilize, transition to civilian life, and be allowed to enter electoral politics. Preventing a resurgence of violence will require reintegrating them into society, compensating victims and returning their lands, and shrinking the socio-economic disparities and political exclusion at the root of the conflict. The government also continues to pursue peace talks with a smaller insurgency, the National Liberation Army (ELN), and faces groups of demobilized paramilitary fighters reorganizing into criminal gangs.

The Colombian peace process refers to the peace process between the Colombian government of President Juan Manuel Santos and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia – People's Army (FARC–EP) to bring an end to the Colombian conflict. Negotiations began in September 2012, and mainly took place in Havana, Cuba. Negotiators announced a final agreement to end the conflict and build a lasting peace on August 24, 2016. However, a referendum to ratify the deal on October 2, 2016 was unsuccessful after 50.2% of voters voted against the agreement with 49.8% voting in favor. Afterward, the Colombian government and the FARC signed a revised peace deal on November 24 and sent it to Congress for ratification instead of conducting a second referendum. Both houses of Congress ratified the revised peace accord on November 29-30, 2016, thus marking an end to the conflict.

Yohana Almeida Lopez from Columbia, South Americas, spoke in October 2016 at the time of the referendum that did not pass. Although it later did pass, Yohana had some interesting observations:

She said today the 2nd of October is a very important day for Columbians, as they go to cast their vote for a referendum for the Peace Agreement. This was an agreement between guerilla armed forces and the government of Columbia. She lamented how troubled the common poor and marginalized people are after 60 years of violence and war. There are at present in Columbia, millions of internally displaced migrants and 8 million victims of war and conflict. Of these 6 million are poor farmers and it needs to be seen whether Colombia opts for Peace today. We have a guerilla warfare going on; militants, they are everywhere and attack anyone they consider the enemy. Today there is a critical need for peace agreements to be put in place, and it becomes our human duty to conquer peace and make it ours. We want peace, thousands of youth are in prisons and there is need for them to be rehabilitated too. Sometimes, it appears that the social destruction in Columbia is beyond reconstruction.

Whatever huge budgets the government has put into defense, it has not yielded any results and the guerillas are still there and war and conflict have had no resolution or there is no end in sight. Even though there has been the presence of nearly 52 multi-national companies in Columbia for developing the economy, their presence has not helped to acquiesce the guerillas. A dialogue is required among all parties and there should be land redistribution, and the poor needs housing, livelihood, health, education and development on these lines. This is a structural war going on in Columbia and it is related to the extreme conditions of poverty. We need post-conflict reconciliation and we need justice for victims. There must be signs from government of overcoming impunity of perpetrators with justice for victims (there is 100% impunity in Columbia). War and conflict in Columbia has gender dimensions to it and this has to be integrated into the overall packages for reconciliation and peace. Women have been victimized beyond description and gender justice is also an issue of grave concern. We need inclusion of women in each and every agreement of the government. More than truth we need more trust among the people of Columbia.

Women Participation

The equal participation in the construction, implementation, verification and countersignature of the agreements reached in the Dialogues of Havana are subject of concern of women's organizations that historically have worked for peace and human rights in the country. The Red de Mujeres (1995), the Ruta Pacífica (1996), and the Iniciativa de Mujeres por la Paz (2002) are some platforms that have targeted, among other issues, to the bilateral cease of fire, demilitarization of civil life, equitable land distribution, respect for human body, justice and differential approaches. By the time when the peace process began with the FARC, Colombia's women already had a consolidated work in various peace agendas. Therefore, organizations around the country wrote open letters to the government demanding equal participation, supported by UN Women.

Before finishing 2012, when began the negotiating of the principle of the end of armed confrontation with the oldest Latin American guerrillas, the Nobel Peace Prize winner Jody Williams, sent a letter to Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos, claiming a space for women in Havana.

With the intention that there were not more agreements without the gender perspective, at the end of October 2013 took place in Bogotá the National Summit of Women for Peace, where was a national agenda consolidated, where around 500 women from 30 of the 32 departments representations. With the motto “las mujeres no queremos ser pactadas, sino ser pactantes” (Women do not want to be agreed, but be Covenanters)," the 800 proposals that were built were given to the government delegation.

In November, the summit published its declaration “Peace and democracy with women suit” where the experience of the Summit was collected. Proposals insisted on equal participation, demilitarization, bilateral cease, dismantling of paramilitary structures, truth, justice and reparation for all victims and "continue to build peace from the regions and from the everyday, strengthening the experiences of women as peacebuilders".In September 2014, a dedicated gender Subcommittee was established at the talks, mandated to ensure that a gender perspective and women's rights are included in all agreements.

The gender Subcommittee of the peace talking is unique in the world. In mid-2014, when the discussion of the agreement for Victims was initiated, negotiators announced the creation of the Sub commission of gender with the mission of ensuring a gender approach in partial agreements that had been reached at the moment and in the future settlements.

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Advisory Committee: Yves Berthelot (France),  PV Rajagopal (India), Vandana Shiva (India), Oliver de Schutter (Belgium), Mazide N’Diaye (Senegal), Gabriela Monteiro (Brazil), Irakli Kakabadze (Georgia), Anne Pearson (Canada), Liz Theoharis (USA), Sulak Sivaraksa (Thailand), Jagat Basnet (Nepal), Miloon Kothari (India),  Irene Santiago (Philippines), Arsen Kharatyan (Armenia), Margrit Hugentobler (Switzerland), Jill Carr-Harris (Canada/India), Reva Joshee (Canada), Sonia Deotto (Mexico/Italy),Benjamin Joyeux (Geneva/France), Aneesh Thillenkery, Ramesh Sharma, Ran Singh (India)