In September of 2022, the Global Centre for Pluralism was honoured to participate in a three-day retreat in Cali, Colombia with a network of ethnic women making up the network called Women of the Ethnic Commission Returning Together to the Root – Mujeres de la Comisión Étnica (MCE). The event gathered members of the Ethnic Commission for Peace and Defense of Territorial Rights from across Colombia. These are groups advocating for women, youth and elders in the Colombian peace process. The main objective of the retreat was for the women to discuss how their diverse perspectives can be incorporated and considered in the implementation of the Ethnic Chapter of the 2016 Colombian Peace Accord. Their approach to advancing women’s rights is very holistic and explicitly integrates gendered perspectives, informed by their family, gender and multi-generational experiences.
Women, Family and Generations
MCE recognizes that women have historically been and continue to be the defenders of their peoples, territories and communities while simultaneously being the group most subjected to violence, discrimination and racism. Therefore, it is crucial that this network of Afro-descendant, Indigenous and gender diverse women participate meaningfully in the implementation of the Ethnic Chapter. Only with their meaningful participation will access to justice, reparations and guarantees of non-repetition be ensured, all of which must be administered from a perspective informed by family, gender and generations.
The retreat showcased the use of traditional teachings with technical expertise in human rights monitoring. It offered those working on the rights of ethnic peoples to offer direct input on the way forward for MCE, as the organization looked to formalize its agenda. The Global Centre for Pluralism was offered space to attend workshops throughout the retreat and to present and discuss the Global Pluralism Monitor and its findings on Colombia. The Centre used a participatory approach for the presentation by going through the methodology of the Global Pluralism Monitor and then breaking participants into groups to discuss and apply an aspect of the methodology to their communities and work. The group work provided crucial feedback on the usefulness of the Global Pluralism Monitor, and identified how this type of assessment could inform the work of the MCE. In general, the members of MCE found value in the Global Pluralism Monitor. They recognized that the Monitor methodology accounts for pluralism and the status of their ethnic groups in Colombia across many different dimensions, such as international and domestic law, politics and leadership, group inequalities and belonging between ethnic peoples and the wider Colombian society.
An Emerging Partnership
The MCE then proposed a partnership with the Global Centre for Pluralism to adapt the Global Pluralism Monitor to monitor the implementation of the Ethnic Chapter through the lens of women, family and generations, and other issues not covered in the Ethnic Chapter’s measures for implementation. MCE sees the partnership with the Centre as a means of increasing the profile of their organization and offering technical expertise as they adapt the Global Pluralism Monitor to their circumstances. The goal of the framework MCE is developing is to bring attention to the situations in areas such as Choco, Colombia, where people tirelessly work for peace with little recognition or support from domestic and international partners. MCE believes that creating their own monitoring system will allow for the voices of local, grassroots organizations – all of which are working to advance women, family and generations– to finally be heard on the national and international stage. As one participant noted: “We tell our stories all the time, the ancestors are tired.”
Adapting the Monitor framework
MCE’s adaptation of the Global Pluralism Monitor will include aspects of spirituality and develop an inclusive and relevant way to analyze the lives of ethnic women. This is an approach that has been ignored in the implementation of the Peace Accord. MCE’s monitoring framework will incorporate Indigenous and Afro-descendent ways of knowing that account for social and community relations, as well as history and collective memories from the territories. The MCE’s Global Pluralism Monitor adaptation will also ensure its methodology will be applicable and useful for local non-governmental and civil society organizations. To test MCE’s framework, a pilot will be conducted in the Choco area of Colombia, and it is the objective of the MCE that their findings will be used in policy making. This will ensure that any policy that affects their lives addresses survivors of the conflict and is based on the voices of survivors from the territories.
This exciting work is ongoing, and the Centre will provide updates throughout the project.