Preparing for the Regional Court Women’s Court
I spent the day before the regional Women’s Court in Bucaramanga with OFP staff. As you can imagine, they were busy confirming the program and the content, and finalizing logistical details including finding accommodation and food for the 150 people who are arriving from different communities throughout Magdalena Medio and Santander.
During a relatively quiet moment I asked Yolanda Becerra, director of the OFP, what she hoped for from the courts. “By hearing real and representative testimonies and the recommendations around each case, I hope that we will be able to raise consciousness about these human rights violations and articulate strategies to address all forms of gender violence in the region,” she said. ” I also hope that we will be able to construct proposals for peace based on truth, justice and reparations.” She added that the OFP has forty years of experience working for peace with justice and that it is positioning itself to participate in the current peace process, although the peace process has so far had no impact on the communities and women they accompany. “It’s very divorced from our daily lives. We don’t feel it. But at least when there are conditions to participate we will have proposals. ”The afternoon was spent preparing the victims for the following day. This involved creating a safe space to share expectations and hopes as well as giving an orientation to the program and providing advice on how to present their testimonies. Silvia Yanez, a lawyer with the OFP, outlined the main points to cover in the testimonies. Perhaps most importantly that afternoon was spent preparing the victims emotionally and psychologically to present their testimonies.
“We will sit together and we will cry together,” said Yolanda. “You are not alone. You need to remember that for each of your testimonies, there are thousands of women who have suffered the same. You are also the voice for those women,” she added. She went on to explain how important it is that they complete their testimonies, that they would be alone after the court, and that they were part of an ongoing process.
Gloria Suarez, a leader within the OFP, is also an expert in aromatherapy. She offered flower essences and showed the women chakra points to relax and reduce anxiety and fear. Kimberly Garcia, a young psychologist from the OFP spoke about how they could prepare themselves psychologically and emotionally to share their testimonies. She asked them to list the advantages and disadvantages of participating in these courts and to share them in an effort to overcome their fears.
What impressed me was despite the busy-ness, the weightiness of the court, and the time pressure, the OFP took the time to prepare the women emotionally and psychologically to participate. By the end of the afternoon there was a notable difference among the women. There was more trust, openness and laughter. They had gone from being a group of individual victims to more of a collective voice.