Rural Women and Human Rights Defenders Key to Colombian Peace

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As Colombia’s President Juan Manuel Santos arrives in Washington to meet with President Donald Trump, Oxfam calls on the two leaders to boost efforts toward full and effective implementation of the peace accord in Colombia and, in particular, to increase investment in rural development, especially for rural women, to monitor and protect human rights defenders and ensure civil society participation in the peace accord implementation process.

After 50 years of internal armed conflict, Colombia has begun implementing a peace agreement reached between the government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). This armed conflict, the last one in the Americas, had as one of its principal causes the struggle for land and against poverty in rural areas.

“For the peace process in Colombia to be successful requires progress toward improving rural livelihoods, and to achieve that progress, both the causes and consequences of the armed conflict must be addressed,” said Maite Matheu, Oxfam country director in Colombia. “The Colombian government must work to remove the barriers in access to land and other resources for rural women especially, as they sustain the social fabric and provide the sustenance of life in their communities and territories.”

Working towards a sustainable peace in Colombia entails institutional and structural reforms to rectify the inequalities and injustices that fueled the conflict, according to Oxfam. Since Colombia has one of the worst rates of inequality in the region, policies are needed to reduce inequality, so that the fundamental causes of armed conflict can be delegitimized forever.

The peace agreement provides hope for rural women especially, but draft laws recently proposed as part of the peace accord implementation contain problematic provisions which, if enacted, would undermine compliance with the agreement on comprehensive rural reform, in particular access to land.

“If we do not have land, we do not have peace,” said Edilia Mendoza, leader of the Colombian Rural Women’s Platform for Policy Advocacy. “This is not simply a struggle of some small farmers; it is a struggle for power. As women farmers, we have faced multiple challenges. What is now at stake is the possibility of building peace on the ground across the country.”

Oxfam also urged for increased efforts to protect human rights defenders and community activists, who are increasingly at risk for their work in support of their communities. Last year, 80 human rights defenders were murdered, most of them in rural areas.

“The murders and threats against civil society leaders must end so we can build true peace in Colombia,” said Matheu.

The international community, and the United States in particular, has an important role to play in support of the peace process in Colombia. Their continued support over the next couple of years will be critical to ensure meaningful progress toward achieving sustained peace. It is essential that US assistance for the peace process remain strong in the next fiscal year and beyond.

Oxfam has worked in Colombia in partnership with grassroots communities and NGOs for 35 years. Oxfam programs in Colombia aim to end inequality, promote human rights, and contribute towards peace building at the local level, especially in the regions most affected by the conflict.

The Colombian Rural Women’s Platform for Policy Advocacy is an Alliance of small farmer, indigenous and Afro-Colombian women from 26 networks and organizations across Colombia, which bring together over 840 grassroots groups. They develop and advocate for public policies to improve the lives and livelihoods of rural women and their communities, building peace from the local level. 

Press contact

For more information, contact:

Laura Rusu
Director of Media and Public Relations (Interim)
Washington, DC
Cell: (202) 459-3739
Email: [email protected]

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