LIMPAL Colombia is a sectional branch of the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF). Founded in 1915, WILPF International is the oldest women’s peace organization in the world. WILPF works to achieve peace through non-violent conflict resolution and the promotion of freedom and social, economic and gender-based justice for all people. LIMPAL Colombia works in solidarity with our founding mothers and with our sisters from all the WILPF chapters across the globe. In Colombia we are part of a social movement that works towards the construction of a just and inclusive society through the development, defense and promotion of human rights, a society that fosters the empowerment of women and gender justice.
GBV background in Colombia
According to the National Institute of Legal Medicine and Forensic Sciences in Colombia, 125 women were killed by their husbands or partners and nearly 51,200 cases of domestic violence were reported in 2010 alone.54 Other sources report an even higher incidence of domestic violence. For example, the National Institute of Legal Medicine and Forensic Science (Instituto Nacional de Medicina Legal y Ciencias Forenses [INMLCF], or “Medicina Legal”) encountered 77,545 cases of domestic violence in Colombia in 2010, though it believes actual numbers are much higher still.55 Domestic violence occurs throughout society, but displaced women and those living in conflict zones are at particularly great risk.
Due to a long-standing culture of impunity in Colombia and a lack of faith in the justice system, crimes of sexual violence are rarely reported, particularly when armed groups are the perpetrators. A United Nations Development Program (UNDP) report from 2000 found that although between 60 and 70 percent of Colombian women were reportedly victims of some form of violence, conflict-related or not, only 9 percent reported it. Survivors of sexual violence fear reporting due to a lack of confidentiality since some institutions that handle their claims have ties to armed groups, especially in conflict zones. Furthermore, rape and other forms of sexual violence are seen to violate the honor of and bring shame to the victim, her family, and her community, so a victim’s reporting of such a crime can itself be seen as a transgression. Click here for more information.
Our group of 25 consisted of 24 women and one man. We had early debated whether a difference in dynamics constitutes if it was a gender-unified group or not. We concluded that in this case did not make any difference. Here it is clearly dependent on the man’s background and relevance to the work (and personality), but it’s hard to predict. It should nevertheless be determined in advance whether to have a group consisting of only women or a mixed group.
Many of the participants worked on a daily basis with survivors of gender-based violence. Two were psychologists, one doctor, one art therapist, several were activists who worked for women’s rights specifically focusing on gender-based violence, and several supported women when reporting to the police or when in court cases. Of the group three were of African descent and two with Native American background, the rest were of mestiza background. This corresponds fairly even with the distribution of the population in Colombia.
Feedback from participants of the training
- The content of the workshop is suitable although it probably contains too much information to be completed in only three days. The number of topics should be reduced and a greater emphasis placed on a few essentials.
- The module on gender-based violence ought to outline the structural causes of violence against women including oppression, discrimination and unequal power relations, which subjugate women from the political right as well as the left.
- The workshops taking place in Colombia should set aside a few hours to delve into the effects of sexual violence during the armed conflict and take a wider analysis of its confluence with gender justice in the context of public policy, with a view to the implementation of transitional justice in Colombia.
- A process of evaluation throughout the development of the workshop should be included (not only before and after) to gauge the perceptions of participants, general atmosphere, the impact of the training and the methodology directly implemented through observation of the behavior of the participants as the day progresses.
- It will be necessary to further develop non-verbal communication skills with the workshop leaders as these greatly affect the disposition of victims of abuse. This subject could be expanded upon within the module on communication skills.
- It is essential to train the leaders on how to give appropriate guidance to victims of abuse so that they are directed to both health institutions to receive physical and emotional help and to judicial institutions to report abuse. This is part of the right to information and must be protected; generally it is referred to as the Critical Path for counseling victims.
- The workshops must provide material support, dispensing specific literature and manuals on these subjects (make a more specified selection than that in point 8). For example: how abused women can handle trauma; conventions that protect women’s rights; which rights are specifically violated and what is the significance of this; and definitions of victimization and revictimization.
- “The manual is helpful to raise awareness that the vulnerable woman should always be allowed to decide how much she wants to tell. This is especially important, because in Colombia, the survivor must report the violation to come within certain criteria for rights. If they do not report, they often do not have access to counseling“.
- “It is useful to have a diverted group for training, both geographically and with regard to the background. It’s good to be able to share experiences and hear how others worked. In particular, it is important and necessary for networking between the various organizations that work on related topics with slightly different angle”.
- “When the butterfly story is based on the good life, what do we do when the victim has not had a good life and cannot find a good point to look back to? Some may probably have difficulty finding the good life, but most have some good moments they can apply back to. It is important to find something that is positive and good in the life they had”.
- “A number of “grounding” -exercises in the manual we also use for ourselves as trainers and helpers, when we feel overloaded and sometimes also re-traumatized by the work, so that we who work closely with the survivors have some tools to use in the daily work and in relation to our own reactions to what survivors tells us. This is important to take care of our health and ability to perform a major work”.
- “We need for more training, especially more repetition of exercises. Three days is helpful, but when you can come back and visit our region so that more people can gain knowledge on how to deal with trauma and meet survivors?”
How the pilot in Colombia influenced the manual
The participants of the pilot commented that the grounding exercises were very useful, and could be use both for grounding the survivor and the helper. We saw the need for more, and varied grounding exercises. We added several different grounding exercises.
We elaborated more on the issue on how to create a good closure for the Butterfly Woman. In many cases it might not be the best solution for the woman to move back to her local community. So we opened up for the idea to create a “happy” ending that would be suitable for our specific survivor through discussion in the group.
In Colombia the survivor were obliged to report in order to get certain rights, such as rehabilitation and counseling. In respond to this, we added several paragraphs on why it is important to divide the role of a helper and the role of reporting.