COLOMBIA: Displaced Leader's Death 'Highlights Violence Faced by Colombian Women

Tuesday, June 21, 2011
Colombia Reports
South America
PeaceWomen Consolidated Themes: 
Sexual and Gender-Based Violence

The women's movement of a recently assassinated Colombian displaced leader said Tuesday that the leader's death will likely force the government to change its response to risks faced by women.

The Antioquia department coordinator of the Ruta Pacifica de las Mujeres, Teresa Aristizabal, toldColombia Reports that Ana Fabricia Cordoba's death has emphasized the need to "make visible the risks faced by women (...) in the context of the armed conflict" and that the organization "will not rest in the struggle" to make the government recognize the situation of women as one of particular vulnerability.

Aristizabal said that the death of Cordoba has been so recognized, both nationally and internationally, that she believes it "has not only profoundly impacted" the women's movement, but also will force the government to assume greater responsibility towards women's rights.

The Ruta Pacifica coordinator said that the displaced leader's story in many ways parallels that of other women who have been victims of violence in the conflict, but that the difference lies in the fact that she is one of the few who has spoken out despite her fear. She stated that the displaced leader's death is "very painful, but it gives us the strength to continue making our voice heard [with respect to] the situation of women, particularly within the conflict."

Following Cordoba's death, Aristizabal said that Ruta Pacifica is concerned about the safety and security of others in the organization, and that the death has had a great psychological impact as well.

Ruta Pacifica in Medellin is currently working with various members of an organization that Cordoba founded, LATEPAZ, to provide the women with psychosocial accompaniment, and plans to provide two other women's rights leaders with legal accompaniment, as their situation is deemed particularly high-risk.

The women's movement Ruta Pacifica de las Mujeres is composed of over 300 organizations working out of nine departments in Colombia, with the objective of making women part of the process of resolving the country's long-standing conflict by drawing in their stories and making their voices heard. In Medellin, Ruta Pacifica works with Mujeres Que Crean and Vamos Mujer, two organizations with parallel goals.

Cordoba, the leader of the displaced and women's rights leader who was assassinated in a public bus on June 7, began working with the branch of the Ruta Pacifica de las Mujeres based out of Medellin in 2008.

Cordoba and her family were displaced from their home in Uraba after her husband was murdered, and arrived in Medellin in 2001, where she lived in the La Cruz neighborhood and became involved in displaced and women's rights work. In 2010, her son, Jhonatan, was murdered, and Cordoba became deeply involved in a search for truth and justice, despite the fact that this came at the cost of death threats. Although Cordoba filed official reports of these threats, the government failed to provide security measures prior to her death.

According to Aristizabal, women from Uraba, Choco and certain parts of Antioquia, and particularly Afro-Colombian and indigenous women, face the highest risks of violence associated with the conflict.

Last year, the U.N. also urged Colombia to take steps towards improving the situation of women in the conflict. The U.N. does not stand alone in its concerns. According to several NGOs, Colombian courts are unable to uphold the law when it comes to the violation of women's rights.