On April 5 and 6, a special academic and intellectual symposium was held at the University of Massachusetts Amherst.
It was entitled “Black Women, Territory and Peach-Building in the Twenty-First Century” and special emphasis was put on the role of black women in the Colombian peace process and the eventual post-agreement phase.
Afro-Colombian activists Rossih Martínez Sinister, Francia Márquez, Edna Martínez and Castilla Hernández were present at the symposium, as well as member of the Peace Delegation of the FARC-EP Victoria Sandino Palmera.
Victoria presented a paper on the role of black communities, and specifically black women within them, as peace-builders. She stated that poor, black women in Colombia suffer three types of discrimination: gender-based discrimination, racism, and class discrimination. Because of this triple discrimination, they don’t have access to education, health care, employment or justice.
With the law 70, Afro-descendent communities obtained an important social, economic, cultural and political recognition in Colombia. However, 23 years after this law was made, it hasn’t been completely enforced, which shows the little importance the government attaches to the well-being of these communities. The peace process, she said, is the opportunity to set this right.
“The regions in Colombia where black people live, are the most marginalized and forgotten territories. But this racism is ignored by the media and denied by the government.They are high-conflict areas, with presence of paramilitaries, drug-traffickers and mining exploitation”, according to Victoria.
Paramilitaries exercise control through sexual violence and promoting domestic violence. Moreover, there are some ideas that still persist in the communities and that affect women, like for example the belief that using contraconception promotes a woman’s infidelity. Black women have the right to use contraceptive methods and it is necessary to implement urgent plans for sexual education for the whole community.
In spite of all the beforementioned, black women have shown a great capacity of leadership which should be made visible. The Peace Delegation of the FARC-EP proposed the incorporation at the peace talks of an interethnic commission that should help to clarify and analyze the problems of these communities. After months of silence by the government’s delegation at the peace talks, “we are now finally convoking black, Afrodescendent, raizal, palenque and indigenous organizations in order to begin working with them”, Victoria mentioned.
After the presentation, the audience present at the symposium was given some time to ask questions about the different problems faced by black communities in Colombia.