Since the announcement of peace talks in Colombia between the Colombian Government and the FARC-EP in 2012, slow developments have been taking place in relation to the participation of women and inclusion of a gender perspective.
The negotiation table does not allow the direct representation of civil society organizations, however, the broader peace process has created spaces for wider participation. Many women's rights activists and women´s organizations, including the WILPF-Colombia section, have participated in these consultation spaces. However, a majority of the women's movement considers these spaces and the process to be insufficient and unfair. A few limitations include sufficiently and accurately reflecting the diverse voices and understanding the rights and challenges of women in the context of armed conflict. For this reason, several women's organizations wanted to create a platform to discuss their own views and concerns in relation to the proposed points of the official agenda and ensure the outcomes were taken directly to the negotiators in Havana.
The National Summit of Women and Peace, which took place on October 23rd in Bogota, offered this platform for women to discuss the signing, implementation and checking of agreements achieved by the Government and FARC. About 400 Colombian women belonging to diverse political and ethnic backgrounds and organizations, including WILPF-Colombia members, participated in the event.
Manuela Mesa from WILPF-España, along with other international experts, spoke on a Panel on peace-building, where she stressed the importance of considering women not just as victims, but rather as active political agents capable of facilitating peace. Manuela recounted the message from the Summit: “We acknowledge our diversity but we want to be united, we want to have a unique voice to ask for Peace in Colombia”.
The Summit recognized that women are indispensable to peace-building and recommended creating mechanisms to ensure the political and civil participation of women, regardless of their ideological position and representation. Fabrizio Hoschild, UN Representative in Colombia, pressed for implementation of Resolution 1325 and follow-up resolutions, including SCR 2122 which aims to strengthen women's participation in conflict resolution. The summit also recommended the creation of a Truth and Reconciliation Commission under a comprehensive political framework where crimes are recognized and punished. It also promotes participation of women in land distribution and management, discusses the right to properties for female-headed households in rural areas, as well as access to land for indigenous women. Furthermore, women leaders also agree that it is important to create Peace Culture by educating about peace and erasing it as a social reference.
The recommendations from the Summit have been communicated to the official process. The negotiations reflected some of the demands of the Summit when the latest agreement included women, peace and security language. The Joint Accord on the 2nd point of the official Peace Negotiation, on Political Participation, released on November 6th addressed three main issues; rights and guarantees for the exercise of political opposition, including access to media; democratic mechanisms for citizen participation; and measures to promote larger participation in all sectors. It stated that everything that was agreed to with regard to political participation, including its implementation, would be carried out keeping in mind a gender focus and guaranteeing the participation of women.
The success of starting having gender language in official agreements makes the work of WILPF-Colombia and other women's peace organizations as important as ever. Building peace in Colombia starts from now until way ahead in a post-conflict scenario, therefore WILPF Colombia considers important to engage the international community on “How collectively can we support these efforts”?