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.

Friday, 18 October 2013

Getting Engaged Globally- Women's experiences in indigenous social and political movements

This past week I held the third workshop of our series of eight, and what a workshop it was! Participation, motivation and classroom engagement seems to be growing steady with every passing week.  The last two workshops have focused primarily on internal conflict and indigenous communities in Chiapas, Mexico and Guatemala.  Within these two topics we've looked specifically at issues of systemic racialized and gendered forms of violence- violence which escalates both during and after periods of armed conflict. We've also focused a great deal of attention on engaging with unique forms of activism and political participation that indigenous women have been involved in or lead.  Such leadership has brought national and international attention to multiple forms of gender and race based violence.  Their leadership also speaks to the unique ways women have helped expose truth and bring about justice in the years after extremely violence military dictatorships.  All of the men and women who are attending these gender workshops have their own stories  of living through Colombia´s armed conflict.  Discussing armed conflict and gender, race and class based violence beyond Colombian borders has played a key role in exploring solidarity for peace, justice and democracy in a more global context.  These workshops have also begun to inspire female participants to continue sharing their stories of struggle, as well as engage with their local, national and international politics.

Welcoming everyone back to class on week two and introducing them to the upcoming topics and activities for the workshops.  Of these included a strong focus and case study of the Zapatista movement and the Women's Revolutionary Law within this indigenous Mexican political movement. To learn more about indigenous women's social and political roles in Chiapas Mexico click here.

If you'd like to learn more about this history of conflict in southern Mexico, and more specifically the Zapatista movement, there is a Canadian documentary entitled, "A Place Called Chiapas".  I first saw this documentary when I was staying in San Cristobal de las Casas in Chiapas in 2010.  It was one of my first exposures to indigenous lead movements in southern Mexico. You can access the documentary via YouTube here.

For the majority of the participants in this 8 week course, they are learning about women's social and political participation outside of Colombia for the first time.  Most had never heard of the Zapatistas in Chiapas, Mexico. Even fewer had learn't about the history of Guatemala's 36 year long armed conflict, or the critical role women's testimonies of sexual violence played in breaking the silence and stigma around violence against women. Their social/political will and perserverance also helped delivery truth and justice to the atrocities committed during the armed conflict on both a national legal and political level.  As such, these workshops have become a critical space in linking the local wth the global- women's personal and political experiences of armed conflict in Colombia with the experiences and powerful roles of women beyond Colombian borders.

The level of motivation and participation from the women and men that have been attending these workshops has been truly inspiring.  Folks come to class with such a strong presence and energy to learn, share and engaged with others.  From the presentations I give each workshop, to the group activities, open classroom discussions and group presentations, each individual has come with something very special to offer.  I'm constantly amazed and inspired by the powerful testimonies, opinions and knowledge everyone continues to share, week after week.  The space has also become one of encouraging others to share their stories for the first time, and to work together to share and better understand sensitive thoughts, feelings and histories.  These include histories of those both in the classroom, along with the national and international histories of those we're studying in each workshop.  The following workshop will be looking at maternity and motherhood as a political role and tool to mobilize communities to seek truth and act politically.  We'll be learning about Las Madres de Plaza de Mayo (The Mother's of the Plaza de Mayo), an organization of mother's who's children have been 'disappeared' during the years of Argentina's 'Dirty War'.  We´ll also explore how this movement, along with The Grandmothers of the Plaza de Mayo contributed to the expansion of local and global notions of feminism and feminist movements. 

There are just eight weeks left of my contract but I hope to have them jam-packed with gender workshops, blog posts, weekend trips and cultural events before saying goodbye to the vallanato filled streets of Valledupar. :)

1 comment:

  1. Hey Kath - WOW, I can't beleive there are only 8 weeks left to go! Well just seeing your photos can only give me a taste of how much you have been able to accomplish there, and how exciting it is to see the participants of the workshops getting engaged in discussion. What a wonderful feeling it must be to know that you have provided the space for groups of women and men to speak freely in such a supportive environment. How exciting about the focus on the Zapatista movement as well- as it is such a powerful model of a women's movement that must be so exciting for people to learn about.
    Thank you SO much for sharing all the incredible things you are doing.