Feminist political movement organizes for change in Colombia

TThe last thing Pamela Lorduy remembers on June 8, 2019, was arguing with her then boyfriend. The next day, she woke up in the hospital. She had broken her pelvis in six places, three ribs, four vertebrae, her tibia, fibula, heel, ankle, sacrum and humerus.

Lorduy, now 29, believes her 14-year-old ex-boyfriend pushed her from the ninth-floor balcony of the house they shared in Envigado, a town south of Medellín, the second city of Colombia. Envigado is in the Antioquia department, home to the country The most dangerous municipalities for women.

In the year of Lorduy’s attempted murder, a Colombian woman was abused by her partner or ex-partner every 13 minutes, according to Sisma Mujer, an organization that works with victims of gender-based violence.

Today, the administrative analyst still suffers from chronic pain, reduced mobility, depression and anxiety, while her ex-spouse – after spending 540 days in preventive prison – now walks the streets as a free man, having exceeded the legal period of preparation. detention. His trial has yet to take place.

In 2020, more than 90 percent of cases of domestic violence against women in Colombia remained at the “investigation” stage, and only seven percent went to trial, according to Sisma Mujer.

“The justice system in this country is not working,” Lorduy said.

Marta Restrepo, member of Colombia’s first national feminist political movement, Estamos Listas, believes that the current justice system is failing women. “The feminist presence within the justice system[…]is practically absent, ”she said.

In its current form, according to Restrepo, “the state is occupied by those who insist on keeping women in a position of subordination and keeping men in a position of impunity.”

Estamos Listas, or “We Are Ready,” is a popular movement born in Medellín in 2019 that builds feminist democracy by redistributing power and wealth and delivering justice to women. One of its main priorities is to fight violence against women in Colombia. Estamos Listas currently supports Francia Márquez and Angela Robledo, two progressive feminist pre-candidates who will run in the presidential elections next year.

A feminist democracy

FColombian eminists, Restrepo believes, are at an inflection point. Responding to the state’s failure to serve them, they spent years building alternative political worlds through independent non-governmental organizations. But not engaging with the political system means that patriarchy always defines the state.

“What Estamos Listas proposed to Colombia and its feminists is to occupy the state,” said Restrepo. “We don’t see any other alternative.”

The organization recently decided to expand its current base to 800 active members nationwide. They hope to recruit a wide range of women from 120 other municipalities across Colombia to join the movement. As Estamos Listas is not linked to a political party, the movement is currently collecting a list of signatures to be represented in the Colombian Senate as an independent political movement.

On April 5, Estamos Listas organized the country’s first National Feminist Convention, inviting pre-candidate Márquez, a human rights and environmental activist, and congresswoman Robledo. Instead of the biggest cities in Colombia like Bogotá or Medellín, they chose Honda, Tolima, for the event, a small town in central Colombia that connects the peripheral departments of the country, to reflect their goal of political decentralization.

Marquez is a well-known social leader from a village in the Cauca, victim of the half-century armed conflict in Colombia and winner of the Goldman Environmental Prize 2018. Robledo is a member of Congress, formerly for the Green Alliance of center-left in Bogotá and was running mate of left-wing candidate Gustavo Petro in the 2016 presidential elections.

Marquez will run for president independently, through the political movement Porque Somos soybean (I am because we are). Robledo will run with the center-left Hope Coalition, made up of the Green Alliance, and five other centrist and leftist politicians. Although the two women will compete for the presidency, they both share, with Estamos Listas, a common goal: to feminize the state.

By supporting the presidential candidacies of Marquez and Robledo for the National Convention, Estamos Listas was part of a “pact” of progressive women politicians and Colombian feminists who will vote for them.

This social and political pact, explained Restrepo, will give citizens the capacity to drive structural change forward. “And that is only possible if we remove this minority from political power,” she said.

“We are ready”

SSince Dora Saldarriaga became Estamos Listas representative for Medellín City Council in 2019, the movement has launched campaigns to find missing women, support families of femicide victims and reduce increasing levels of violence against women. towards women.

Their members, or “activists,” wear purple scarves to identify themselves in the city. They struggle to change the unequal power dynamics between women and men in all areas of society and put women’s lives at the center of politics, as opposed to the economy or private property.

According to Restrepo, the movement’s manifesto focuses on the recognition of the progressive decline of the state, the recognition of the political and economic value of reproductive and care-oriented work, defense of life and opposition to the agenda. anti-rights.

“Promoting an anti-rights agenda is a fundamental nod to those backward political sectors who want us to step back on what we have gained in years of fighting, not only for women, but also for women. sexual and gender diversity, and for historically powerless groups in our country – Afro-Colombians, indigenous peoples, rural farmers and the working class, ”Restrepo said.

Women who experience the highest levels of violence in Colombia are racialized, Marquez explained in an interview.

“As a woman of African descent, I want to aim for precedence and fight for a position that has been a privileged place for white men,” she said. “I represent the voices of some women who, although they do not stand out in feminism, act against the injustice that we experience in society.

Violence against women in Colombia

AAccording to the Colombian Femicide Observatory, so far in 2021, there has been 106 feminicides. The United Nations defines feminicides as killings of women killed by gender-based violence. Last year there was 630 feminicides, an increase of more than 10% compared to 2019. However, the ethnic origin of the victim was only specified in 125 cases in 2020.

Restrepo believes that the “huge deficit” in information systems to report these crimes is due to state corruption and a lack of coordination between government agencies, which often restrict access to these databases.

In Colombia, violence against women is also underreported because it is normalized, dissuading women from speaking out, explained a recent Sisma Mujer. report. State institutions often stigmatize or revictimize women, which means that they refrain from telling their stories out of fear.

“I feel responsible for raising my voice for other women who couldn’t raise theirs,” Lorduy said. “I raise mine for myself and for all. “

As in the case of Lorduy, the majority of violence against women occurs at home, and according to Sisma Mujer, mainly in the hands of a partner. For Adriana Benjumea, director of Corporación Humanas Colombia, a research center that works for the defense of women’s rights, these figures are worrying because the home must be a safe space for women.

As women were confined to their homes during the pandemic, the violence against them escalated. From March 2020 to February 2021, calls to the Colombian domestic violence hotline increased by about 85 percent.

In a recent report on the impact of the pandemic on women around the world, the United Nations attributes this increase to five factors: concerns about security, health and money, cramped living conditions, isolation from the aggressors, movement restrictions and deserted public spaces.

But in Colombia, Benjumea believes prevention has failed. “During the pandemic, the Colombian government was slow to respond quickly to reports of violence against women, she stressed.

In Latin America, the pandemic has also indented the participation of women in the labor market of a decade, according to the United Nations.

“This sector of society… is the weakest link in the chain,” said Benjumea. “These are the women who worked in the domestic service and who were made redundant, the sex workers unable to work during the pandemic, the informal workers,” she said on the list.

City Councilor Saldarriaga believes the only way to close the gender pay gap is political determination. Marquez hopes to lead this change.

“Economic empowerment driven by public policies that put life care at the center is a priority,” Marquez said.

But before she can do so, Marquez believes she must first heal the wounds of the armed conflict in Colombia. “Armed conflict has served as a distraction for the state to avoid focusing its actions on its fundamental objective,” she said.

Restrepo d’Estamos Listas says it is significant that two women are running for president and that Colombian feminists must join them. Estamos Listas hopes to build the political and strategic unity necessary to overcome the obstacles to electing a woman.

“This will be the biggest bet ever to change hegemonic power structures,” said Saldarriaga, reflecting on the prospect of a feminist presidency. “It would be the first time that two women… would change the discourse of war that we have heard for so many years for a discourse of life, which structurally modifies inequalities.


Sophie Foggin is a freelance journalist based in Medellín, Colombia, who covers human rights, politics and gender issues in Latin America.


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