Cauca, a dangerous department for the exercise of social leadership by women

Social stigmatization against ex-FARC fighters is ongoing, prompting many signatories not only to withdraw from the public spaces they have gained access to, but also to retreat back into performing domestic tasks.

Popayan September 27, 2022 (@DefensoriaCol). “The actions against women leaders and human rights defenders in Cauca are so serious and so many that this department has become the most dangerous territory for women who exercise their social leadership,” Deputy Ombudsman Luis Andrés Fajardo on the occasion of the release of the report on Collective risks of women leaders and human rights defenders in the department.

In the report presented by the Delegate for Women’s Rights and Gender Affairs and according to information from the Delegate for the Risk Prevention and Early Warning System, between 2019 and 2021, 35 behaviors were recorded in Cauca and human rights defenders , who have violated female leaders.

Of these events, 14 correspond to murders committed in 2021 in the municipalities of Morales (2), Suárez (2), Páez (1), Toribio (1), Caloto (1), Totoro (1), Corinto (1) , El tambo (1), Caldono (1), Santander de Quilichao (1), Miranda (1) and Jambaló (1). Similarly, two female leaders were assaulted and another 19 suffered threats of direct interaction with the aggressor or with intermediaries in receiving items or artifacts, text messages, threatening calls, or being mentioned in pamphlets.

“In addition to the criminal activities of illegal armed groups, we find that women leaders and human rights defenders in Cauca face other serious personal threats, such as damage to their mental health due to attacks and anxiety.” Also, indigenous women leaders are victims of discrimination in their communities because they are women and because of their ethnic origin. On the other hand, women should exercise their leadership in areas of the territory where they are exposed to harassment and other manifestations of sexual violence”, added the deputy ombudsman.

Added to these situations are affects such as the severance of family ties, as relatives believe that the social work carried out by the leaders puts the safety of the family at risk. Also, there is partner violence that disrupts physical and emotional integrity, some relationships are broken due to lack of support in exercising their leadership. LGBT women leaders do not have strong family networks that make them victims of psychological and sexual violence.

In the field of organizations, women who exercise leadership in local communities and communities of African origin, in rural processes and with the population that signed the peace agreement are at greater risk; the biggest crime they are subjected to is forced displacement, which affects the social structure and the progress made by women’s organizations in terms of the enforceability of rights.

Finally, in relation to social and community violence, they found, among other things, that Indigenous women defenders are often subjected to sexist behavior and ridicule from society at large; that there are practices of discrimination and institutional exclusion of indigenous women who face barriers to access to justice because of their language.

“One of the main problems that need to be solved is the lack of sensitivity of the entities responsible for dealing with cases of gender-based violence, the low qualification in technical and logistical terms and the violation of the confidentiality of information. For this reason, as the Office of the Ombudsman, we make a series of recommendations so that training processes are promoted in the personnel of the territorial units of the municipalities of Caloto, Corinto, Popayan, El Tambo, Paes, Argelia and Guapi, regarding the correct implementation on the care and protection route for women leaders and human rights defenders,” the deputy ombudsman concluded.

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