‘This is the Transition from War to Peace’; Interview with Ruta Pacífica de las Mujeres Founder Amanda Camilo Ibarra (E)
After more than half a century of civil war, a peace agreement has been concluded in Colombia. Guerrilla groups, paramilitary organisations and the government are now discussing how to implement disarmament and bring about reconciliation. Colombia’s rural regions have been particularly hard hit by the civil war and the illegal drug trade. Far from the capital, local actors hold sway, and it will be difficult to take steps towards peaceful coexistence. For two decades, Ruta Pacífica de las Mujeres, a women’s rights organisation, has been campaigning for peace. Amanda Camilo Ibarra understands the issues well. She is a teacher and represents Ruta Pacífica in Putumayo, in the south of the country, where fighting was fierce. Development and Cooperation
How does Ruta Pacífica promote peace?
The full name of our organisation is: “Ruta pacífica de las mujeres por la trámitación política de los conflictos en Colombia y la visibilisación de las violencias contra las mujeres” (“The peaceful way for women to find a political solution to the conflict in Colombia and raise awareness of violence against women”). The name reflects our programme. Our peace work has the following order:
- public education, both formal and informal,
- knowledge generation and
- empowerment of women, leaders and their organisations.
Everything is based on the principles of feminism, pacifism, anti-militarism, non-violence and dialogue.
Have you or your organisation ever been threatened?
Many people oppose peace. All of our top people have been threatened. I have been stalked constantly and put under pressure by the paramilitaries. In 2009, they forced their way into my house and started shooting. They killed one of my neighbours and injured my brother-in-law. I happened to be away from home that day. Another time, a paramilitary group kidnapped one of my brothers. I searched for him in the mountains and fortunately found him alive. Many women have been murdered; others have left the movement out of fear. We have a radio show called “Mujer, Caminos y Futuro” (Woman, Paths and Future) and we have frequently been put under pressure to discontinue this. Another threat rural people must live with are anti-personnel mines, munitions depots and improvised explosive devices, which are still buried everywhere.
How did the armed conflict affect your village?
It was terrible. About half of the residents were displaced. People disappeared one after the other, particularly women. There were threats, rapes, massacres, arbitrary detention, power struggles between different armed groups and narco-terrorism. The state was completely absent. Its only intervention was to spray our fields from the air with glyphosate in an alleged effort to destroy coca plants. Paramilitaries forced young girls from our village into prostitution. A friend of mine was murdered and her genitals were mutilated. The paramilitaries cut out the tongue of an indigenous woman and then killed her. The victims’ families were often not allowed to collect the bodies and bury them in the Christian way. Father Jiménez was murdered in 1998 while he was celebrating mass.
Did people in this area vote in favour of the peace deal?
Yes, the vast majority did.