Colombia: Defeating Invisibility - Landscapes of Violence and Human Rights Violations Against Afro-descendant Women
The Black Communities’ Process in Colombia (PCN) released a report on the plight of Black women and launched the Afro-Colombia Women Human Rights Defenders Project, accompanied by the following press release:
"As the Colombia government sits at the table to negotiate peace with the armed opposition group FARC and the nation hopes for peace, Afro-Colombia communities continue to see an escalation in violence from multiple state and non-state actors with Afro-Colombia women bearing the brunt of this violence. Detailed in the report “Defeating Invisibility. Landscape of Violence and Human Rights Violations Against Afro-descendant Women in Colombia, in The Framework of Collective Rights”, Afro-Colombia women are subjected to systematic rape, disappearances and brutal assassinations. Just over the last two years at least twenty Afro-Colombia women have been assassinated for political related reasons and dozens of leaders received death threats from paramilitary forces, often working with multi-nationals corporations, narco-traffickers and other elements to force Afro-Colombia communities off of their land.
The report was produced by a collective of women members of the Black Communities’ Process in Colombia (PCN), and is part of the Afro-Colombian Women Human Rights Defenders Project that PCN is launching with this report. The report compiles information through a “people-centered” methodology directly from impacted women from the cities of Tumaco and Buenaventura, in the Territory-Region of the Pacific Coast, and Maria La Baja, in the Colombian Caribbean Coast.
Francia Marquez, community leader from La Toma, Norte del Cauca and member of the Afro-Colombia Women’s Human Rights Defenders Project, whose story was highlighted in the PBS special “Women, War and Peace,” provides the reasoning behind the efforts that target women for violence: “our women are the ones who sustain the cultural practices that affirm us as people, share wisdom and teach justice in our communities and constantly recreate and reaffirm the reason to be Black. If our women are not protected we could not exist as a people.”
Charo Mina-Rojas, coordinator of the women’s human rights defenders project states that the report and the project are “a call to see violence against Afro-descendant women in Colombia as a human rights problem with a multi-dimensional character. Violence affects them as women and also as Afro-descendants, it attacks their individual as well as their collective rights and should be seen in the context of the geo-economic wars, systemic racism, patriarchy and the overall oppression of Black people in the country.”
The report and the Afro-Colombia Women’s Human Rights Project have as a major objective to raise the level of awareness of the people in the United States to the ongoing Afro-Colombia human rights crisis. Awareness of this crisis is important for the people of the United States since the U.S. State Department is required to certify that progress toward the protection of human rights in Colombia is taking place in order for the Colombia government to continue to receive the massive amounts of aid from the U.S.
The focus on black communities and the violence against women leaders is especially important now that the country is attempting to move toward some kind of national reconciliation with elements of the armed opposition. But as Mina-Rojas points out, “The Colombia government and the world must understand that there can be no peace and national reconciliation while black communities and black women in particular are under the gun”.
Charo Mina-Rojas can be reached at email@example.com. The report can be downloaded in English or Spanish. Additional information on the Afro-Colombian women’s human rights project can be found at http://www.afrocolombianhr.org/index.html.