KAIROS Partners in Colombia
This is the second of two blogposts on KAIROS’ recent visit to Colombia. Read the first blog post There is nothing post-conflict about Colombia
KAIROS partners on the ground, the Mesa Ecuménica por La Paz (Ecumenical Forum for Peace, MEP) and the Organización Femenina Popular (Popular Women’s Organization, OFP), made it clear that there is nothing post-conflict about Colombia.
Nevertheless, KAIROS Colombian partners, MEP and OFP are relentless in their peacebuilding efforts.
Based in Bogota, MEP mobilizes church groups, organizations, and networks across the country. MEP organizes an annual national meeting of church leaders and human rights defenders; the 2019 gathering will be held November 2-4 in Bogota. Through its own research, MEP is contributing to Colombia’s Truth Commission. MEP is finishing a report on the religious victims of the armed conflict, which it will officially submit to the commission. MEP’s goal is to ensure that religious victims are accounted for in the Truth Commission’s final report—to be published in 2021.
In the Magdalena Medio region of Colombia, the OFP uses an intergenerational and integrated approach for peacebuilding. Through their Casas de Mujer (Women Centres), community centers, the OFP, one of KAIROS’ partner organizations in the Women of Courage: Women, Peace, and Security program, provides women and youth a range of services.
The OFP not only offers psychosocial counselling, legal support, and human rights training to survivors of gender-based violence but also supports youth through arts and culture programming and provides women a base from which to establish alternative economies. This programming offers women and youth the possibilities to memorialize and confront the past to create a Colombia informed but not restrained by armed conflict.
The OFP’s approach acknowledges how healing is an ongoing process that must include different areas of a woman and youth’s life.
I saw this first-hand and heard from women and youth directly.
I travelled via small boat on the Magdalena River to San Pablo with OFP staff Gloria Suarez and Kelly Campo. There we met with women at a Casa de Mujer. The women used their everyday life to contextualize Colombia’s current geo-political situation. They discussed how very little has changed in their life. What has morphed, they told me, are the armed factions.
Most of these women are also long-term OFP members who have established businesses—restaurants and school supply stores, for example.
Youth participate in after-school and weekend activities, like music-making, dancing, and acting. On Wednesday, July 3, I attended a pre-premiere of the youth group’s Memoria de Mi Pueblo (Memories of My Town), a contemporary theater production that recounts the history of armed conflict in
Barrancabermeja. Expressive cultural production is just one way the OFP is working on the implementation of Colombia’s peace accords.
The OFP’s focus on collective memory is further apparent is their Casa Museo de la Memoria y Derechos Humanos de las Mujeres (Museum and Home of Collective Memory and Women’s Human Rights), which is set to be inaugurated this coming July 25.
By leveraging collective memory, the OFP, like MEP, foreground an unwavering commitment to the non-repetition of violence, which is a key component of Colombia’s peace accords.
Gabriela Jiménez is KAIROS Canada’s Latin America Partnerships Coordinator.