The fate of the country’s historic peace process — and how it impacts Colombians living amid a fragile truce — may well be at stake. Both candidates have said they are going to support the implementation of the peace process but the detail of that support isn’t always clear. This has understandably made those most impacted by the conflict, who worked hard to broker peace, apprehensive.
Beyond a woman at the right hand of the president, what can Colombians — and specifically Colombian women who bore the brunt of the Western Hemisphere’s longest running armed conflict — expect from their future leaders?
A history of conflict-related violence
Women in Colombia disproportionately suffered in the 50-plus years of conflict between government forces, guerilla and paramilitary groups. Yet, women also played important roles as peace builders in ending that conflict, and in rebuilding their communities in its aftermath.
When it was finalized, the Colombian Final Accord included commitments in key areas including rural reform, security and protection guarantees, and victims’ rights.
Davis added: “Afro-Colombian organizations, with strong leadership from Afro-Colombian women, developed a vision for the peace process that recognized and remedied historic injustices and discrimination committed against them, including gender discrimination, in order to ensure an inclusive and lasting peace.”
For their part, the social leaders I have been speaking with in recent weeks are not confident that the implementation of the process would be a central focus of Hernández’s government, meaning that security conditions in rural areas could stay the same or even become more dangerous.
Seeking peace and speaking out against drug trafficking, child recruitment into armed groups, and environmental degradation, has come at great cost to Colombia’s women leaders.
Their names have, for example, been included in public death threats circulated by armed groups with a simple message: stop their social activism or die. As a result, many no longer live in their home communities, isolating from their families in order to protect their children.
For Colombia’s grassroots women leaders all around the country, what is at stake in these elections is their ability to live safely in their communities. Whether, how, and when the next president will actually implement the peace accord could be the difference between life and death for them.
The peace process is more important than ever