My eye-opening visit with the OFP in Colombia

Isabel Grigueli
Isabel Grigueli

I write from the heart of Barrancabermeja Colombia, on a trip that has been an eye-opener for me. I am KAIROS’ Finance Coordinator, and a delegate with KAIROS’ Women, Peace, and Security (WPS) program, visiting the Organization Femenina Popular (OFP), which has been on the front lines for over 51 years.

The OFP weaves threads of empowerment, resilience, and hope into the lives of over 2,300 women across the nine territories where they are located. The incredible experiences I’ve had on the ground, witnessing firsthand the transformative work that the OFP is accomplishing with hard work and Canadian support fulfills me.

One of the most impactful aspects of my trip was  visiting the Women’s Houses (La Casa de la Mujer) in different locations and La Comunera, located near Bucaramanga. Stepping into these spaces, I witnessed the tangible results of the dedication and hard work of OFP in supporting women who have faced unimaginable challenges. The commitment to make a real difference in the lives of these women is palpable in every corner where KAIROS’ program support has been instrumental in shaping their lives. Before coming here, it was hard for me to see that through Excel charts with numbers and activity reports.

Isabel at the Casa de Mujer in Yondo
Isabel at the Casa de Mujer in Yondo

As I sit down with the women and hear their stories, I’m deeply moved by the resilience they exude. The OFP has been a beacon of hope for these women, providing vital support during times of domestic violence, armed conflicts, and forced displacement. It’s heartening to see the genuine care and attention that the OFP extends to help these women rebuild their lives, from education to economic empowerment. The local and international financial support, including from KAIROS, has facilitated programs that break down barriers and provide tangible opportunities for growth.

The holistic approach OFP takes in assisting these women makes me think that hope exists. It’s not just about providing a temporary solution; it’s about empowering them for a lifetime. The comprehensive support includes psychological help, legal assistance, housing support, and educational opportunities. The OFP understands that true empowerment comes from addressing every aspect of a woman’s life. So, imagine how much more they could do and how many lives they could save if we continue to support their work, our work!

The OFP is actively engaged in helping women find a path to economic independence. Through various programs, women are supported in developing professions, starting businesses, and gaining the skills needed to stand on their own feet. Witnessing this firsthand reinforces the notion that sustainable change is rooted in empowering women economically. And I can say it’s more than just numbers on a balance sheet; it’s the quantifiable improvement in the quality of life for women who have found their voices, pursued education, and embraced economic independence.

The collaboration between KAIROS and the OFP through the WPS program is a shining example of how partnerships can drive positive change. The financial support provided by Canada is a crucial enabler, allowing the OFP to extend its reach and impact more lives. For me, as the Finance Coordinator, seeing the concrete results of strategic financial allocation reinforces the importance of our work in supporting these impactful initiatives that are more than just numbers. They represent individual stories of resilience, empowerment and positive change.

I am sad that our program is nearing the end of its funding cycle, but I am grateful for the experiences of these days that fuel my optimism for the future. The impact of Canada’s commitment channelled through programs like WPS and executed by dedicated partners like OFP, has the potential to create lasting change in the lives of women in the Magdalena Medio region and around the world.

Casa de Mujer in San Pablo
Casa de Mujer in San Pablo

I want to express my gratitude for being part of this journey with my KAIROS team and for the dedication of the OFP staff to make us feel at home. The work being done here reaffirms the transformative power of collaboration, financial stewardship, and the collective dedication to making a positive impact in the lives of women. As the program concludes this chapter, the financial legacy stands as a testament to the enduring impact of Canada’s commitment to empowering women and nurturing sustainable communities in the heart of Colombia. I’m excited about the future possibilities that lie ahead, and my hope is that the Canadian government can see that it is a necessity and an obligation to continue funding organizations like OFP and others like this around the world.

By Isabel Grigueli, KAIROS’ Finance Coordinator.

Filed in: Gender Justice, Gender Justice/Women of Courage

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