In Colombia, women are the best peacebuilders

Cleiner Almanza, leader of Corporación Mujer Sigue Mis Pasos, told us how women in Colombia have been responsible for building peace among themselves.

Cleiner Almanza, leader of the Woman Corporation Follow my Steps.

Cleiner Almanza, leader of the Woman Corporation Follow my Steps. / Photo:

The Woman Post | Luisa Fernanda Báez Toro

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Leer en español: En Colombia, las mujeres son las mejores constructoras de paz

For more than 50 years, Colombia experienced an internal armed conflict that left thousands of civilian victims in its wake, including more than 26,000 women victims of sexual violence.

In an interview with a leader of the Corporación Mujer Sigue Mis Pasos, we understood the importance of these leaderships, created by and for women, in the process of peacebuilding in the country and in the healing of the victims.

Cleiner María Almanza Blanco was born on a path called La Reforma and became a leader because of the lack of guarantees that existed at that time for the victims.

“At that time no victims were heard, but displaced. Seeing so much violation in all rights and I started on that requirement that I was going to seek to guarantee my rights and there I met the Luz de Esperanza Foundation, where the leadership to Membrillal (Cartagena) was born, where we joined a group of 80 women and that is where the Association of the Unemployed Displaced of the Community of Membrillal was born, and that is where the association joins these other organizations to which I belong today. ”

The Woman Post: Did you receive threats when you decided to take that leadership?

Cleiner María Almanza Blanco: Yes, there was no guarantee at all and I was displaced again in 2007 so I had to go to Bogota and from there again the threats, persecutions, harassment and I had to come here again when to have my daughter. The threats continued and after my daughter was born, I went back to Bogota.

But I never stood still. Before reaching the National Network of Human Rights Defenders and the Corporación Mujer Sigue Mis Pasos, we brought leadership and support to women victims of sexual violence, taking into account that we are also women victims of sexual violence, and when we decide to speak it is at Ana Angelica Bello's. That's when she speaks in front of the president and he asks Ana Angélica what she would want for the victims and she told him that what she was looking for talks and, primarily, personal healing. That was where they reached the consensus of a project called Fundefem. Nevertheless, Ana Angélica Bello dies and the Corporación Mujer Sigue Mis Pasos is born. Since 2013, ten women from different regions are leading this process and this accompaniment for women victims of sexual violence.

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TWP: What do you think has been achieved in the accompaniment of these women?

CMAB: Other women have dared to speak through our speech. Likewise, they have dared to speak of forced disappearance. I also experienced this in the case of my missing brother, so that has made women listen to me talk as a human being but also from the corporation. And I have undertaken a very strong leadership with the support of NGOs.

TWP: What kind of attention has been given to women victims of sexual violence?

CMAB: The psychosocial support that women received was only what was presented to them from the foundation because there is no government presence nor support. There's a government debt to all women victims of sexual violence because these crimes cause destruction in our lives. Plus, there's an educational issue because our children are not supported when they are affected.

We have seen that a very important seed that is youth has also been born: there is the youth committee. The dance committee also emerges from this youth committee, which is very important because it has shown that in the face of state abandonment these young women, to get out of that damage, to compensate themselves for that pain, they have achieved it through dance, not because the government has financed it or fulfilled it as it should be.

In terms of emotional issues, the psychosocial issue, the psychiatric, etc., there is an abandonment because women are not taken into account in that state, when a woman tries to commit suicide she is not paid attention, only when she is already dead. Then, with the dance, many girls, boys, youngsters, and teenagers have been rescued because this has allowed them that they have also been raped inside their house.

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