About Me

Valledupar, Cesar, Colombia
This blog will document some of my experiences of living and working in Valledupar, Colombia. I'm here working as a Junior Professional Consultant (JPC) for the UNDP through the United Nations Association of Canada's UN Professional Placement Programme. The posts for this blog will share my experiences of work, travel and culture in the Cesar region of Colombia's Caribbean coast and the Sierra Nevada mountains.

Wednesday, 7 August 2013

Exploring Gender and Development in Cesar, Colombia

It’s been an intense six weeks of conferences, workshops, forums, and meetings on issues of gender and development in the Cesar region of Colombia. As such, it's been an endless learning experience on the UNDP’s role in supporting local efforts in addressing gender issues, including raising awareness on gendered violence and women’s political participation, as well as a number of other pressing human rights concerns.  Along with attending and participating in these events, I've been busy learning more about the different projects run through UNDP Cesar on issues ranging from farmers rights and internal displacement from the armed conflict, to Indigenous and Afro-Colombian's rights.

Among the conferences I have attended was the First Inter-Institutional Conference for Gender Equity in Cesar, held at Valledupar’s City Hall. I have also been able to contribute and participate in organizing a series of municipal conferences on women's organizations in Valledupar, as well as a series of regional conferences for rural women's organizations in Cesar. In addition, PNUD has also participated in hosting a series of journalism forums to discuss issues of representation of gendered violence in the media.  The activities at these events have ranged from interactive and dynamic group activities and workshop based learning, to presentations given by a diverse range of guest speakers - from UNDP agents from across Colombia, to well known journalists and feminist activists, to members of local women's organizations.  The main objectives for the municipal and rural women's conferences have been to raise awareness and education on women's national and international human rights laws, increase women's political participation, build networks amongst women's organizations and the state, and to develop a concrete strategy for implementing these objectives and local human-rights based concerns.

Fostering group activities and interactive workshops at these conferences has been a critical feminist research method used in building networks amongst women's organizations in both Valledupar and rural communities throughout the territory.  These activities have also provided local women's representatives to speak on behalf of their communities, present their ideas to other women's organizations and NGO's, the state government, and to the UNDP.  It has also provided a space to work on building self confidence and enhance public speaking skills.  These workshops have also aided in improving community knowledge on international human rights laws as they relate to rural and urban women, access to work, and to gendered violence. 
What's my Role?
As a Junior Professional Consultant (JPC) for UNDP Cesar I am working on issues specific to gender equity and peace building in Colombia.  The past six weeks have enabled me to learn more about the specific issues communities are dealing with in the Cesar region, as well as meet and begin working with a range of urban and rural partner organizations of the UNDP.  Attending and participating in events specific to the issues of gender and development in the region has been a moving experience, teaching me a great deal about the context-specific issues of the region, as well as the culture and political activism of communities and organizations that have been working to educate and implement lasting change.  My role over the coming months will be to work more specifically on the design and implementation of a new Gender strategy for the UNPD Cesar office, working more specifically with building a base line for women's rights in the territory and to contribute to campaigns on issues of violence against women and children.

If you're interested in learning more about UNAC's Professional Placement Programme, as well as more information regarding my professional background and work placement, please visit: http://unac.org/unac-projects/international-internships/about-the-programme/


  1. Can't wait to hear more about your upcoming project, that I know is being initiated these days, and I am exited to hear more about the dilemmas, that going into politics, presents for the women of Colombia :)

  2. Dear Kathleen - What an exciting project. It must be overwhelming to learn of all the struggles the women of the Cesar region, especially as it is the first conference of this kind in the area. For that reason, it must also be extremely difficult being the first group to work in this region on Gender equity. So it sounds as though your team must be the trailblazers! All of my luck to you, knowing that no matter how difficult things may seem - you know that simply your presence in the area must be comforting for the women who are facing violence in their lives.
    love tess