I´m happy and excited to be updating my blog by sharing with you the most recent conferences, gatherings and initiatives on issues of gender, indigenous rights and development I've been attending in Colombia´s Sierra Nevada. Activism on human rights based projects, with gender and indigenous rights playing key roles, have continued in full swing throughout the months of August and September.
I had the privilege of participating in the first and second of a three part journalism forum which addresses issues of sexist and mysoginistic gender representation in Colombian media. The first forum was lead by Jinet Bedoya Lima, a Colombian journalist who was abducted by paramilitary forces in May 2000 and August 2003. In 2001, she was awarded the Courage In Journalism Award of the International Women's Media Foundation (Here you'll find photos of her with Michelle Obama and Hilary Clinton at the 2012 International Women of Courage Awards!)
Jinet lead the conference in Valledupar by engaging the audience (primarily journalists and journalism students) by asking questions about gendered violence in media and journalism, as well as sharing her own experiences of sexual violence, armed conflict, and challenges in the field of journalism when it comes to these themes.
The guest speaker at the second journalism forum was Juliet Penagos, who runs ´Red Colombiana de Periodista con vision de genero´, a UN partnered campaign which works to promote non-sexist, non-discriminatory journaling and media representation throughout Colombia. Click here to learn more about the campaign.
I also attended Colombia´s first ever conference on the experiences of Colombian indigenous communities and their economies, "El primero Encuentro de Experiencias de Economia propria de Pueblos Indigenas de Colombia", on July 31st. This was held in Kankuama spiritual territory in Rio Seco, Cesar. An amazing day where I met with indigenous farmers, business leaders, teachers and social activists from across the country who were sharing their experiences of new community-based projects that benefit their communities economies and strengthen their unique cultural identities.
I have also been able to help contribute to the development of a series of meetings and workshops with women who live in rural regions of Cesar. These meetings have become a central site for representatives of rural women´s organizations to learn about Colombian laws that apply directly to rural women, and how to best access these laws.
Among these laws are "la ley 731 of 2002", which outlines rural women´s access to land reclamation processes and access to funds in financing the rural sector. This law also provides social and educational support for women and their families and outlines rural women´s rights to participate in the decision-making bodies of government. The problem remains full implementation of these laws. It has been a unique and important experience for me to see first hand the disconnect between the law and reality. For many of the representatives of rural women´s organizations, they were learning about these laws for the first time, along with me. Almost twelve years is certainlty a long time to inform the public of these laws, and to inform those that need to know these laws most. The meetings and workshops have been a moving and thought provoking experience, especially to learn along with women and see how they begin the processes of organizing and accessing their rights. A number of proposals to the municipality are already in the making to begin gaining access to these rights and improving the living conditions of rural communities in Cesar.
Next week a new project on gender and political participation begins. It is a project I've started with the support of my supervisor and a few other colleagues. Basically, with the support of UNDP, I will be running a series of workshops over the course of 8 weeks. During these workshops women of Valledupar, who are interested in learning more about international histories of women's social and political movements, as well as learning more about women's rights in Colombia, can attend and participate. They will draw from their own experiences and expertise as representatives of different women's organizations in the region. The workshops are spaces to share experiences from Colombian's armed conflict, as well as a space to learn about how women outside of Colombia have dealt with human rights violations, and what they have done to make change. We will be drawing from the Zapatista indigenous women's movement of Chiapas Mexico, Las Madres de la Plaza de Mayo en Argentina, women's testimonies and experiences of violence in Guatemala, women's political protests in Iran and Egypt, reproductive rights abuses in China, amongst many others. I will also be sharing my own work, study and travel experiences from my time spent engaging with feminism in Canada, Australia, India, Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador and Colombia. This project has been a long time in the making but the time has finally arrived. I've learn't so much from the women I've met and been working with over the past three months and can't wait to begin these workshops and broaden the discussions to local and global frameworks of feminism, gender and development. In addition, upon completing the course, the women will be awarded a certificate in gender and political participation by UNDP!