This morning I head over to Bogotá’s Casa de Nariño, the Colombian equivalent of the White House, where Gonzalo Sánchez, the head of the Historical Memory Center (HMC), will present that group’s final report, Basta ya! Colombia: Memorias de guerra y dignidad. (loosely translated as “Enough Already! Memories of War and Dignity”) to President Juan Manuel Santos. The Historical Memory Group (now Center) was set up by the National Commission on Reparations and Reconciliation (NCRR), which was created by Law 975 (the Justice and Peace Law) in 2005. The law mandated the NCRR to produce a “public report on the reasons for the illegal armed actors’ creation and evolution” from 1964 onwards. The NCRR in turn tasked an independent academic group, the Historical Memory Group (HMG), to produce the report, dignify the memories of the victims (as a form of symbolic reparations), ensure attention to traditionally excluded (including gendered) dimensions of the violence, and foster long-term reconciliation. The HMG sought guarantees of autonomy and independence, and as a member of the HMG’s International Advisory Board, I have been privileged to work with and support this amazing team of public intellectuals in their efforts to shed light on the Colombian conflict and create public policy recommendations to ensure that the violence is not repeated. These academics have produced 20 books in the last six years on emblematic cases of violence in Colombia. Today marks the culmination of this work and the presentation of the final report on their findings and recommendations for public policy. A landmark day.
The first grant I ever brokered at the U.S. Institute of Peace was to the gender unit of the HMG, now the Historical Memory Center, and an official state body. I remember hearing María Emma Wills, the head of the HMG’s gender unit at a forum sponsored about five or six years ago by the Initiative for Inclusive Security in Washington, DC. I waited for her following the forum and encouraged her to present a grant proposal so that USIP might strengthen the gender dimensions of the HMG’s work. She and her team developed a unique interdisciplinary and participatory methodology that produced several reports on the gendered dynamics of war on the northern coast of Colombia. Several books and manuals (all in Spanish –would be great if someone wanted to fund translations and publications in English!) resulted from this effort:
- Mujeres y Guerra: Víctimas y resistentes en el caribe colombiano
- Mujeres que hacen historia: Tierra, cuerpo y política en el caribe colombiano
- Reconstrucción de la memoria histórica desde la perspectiva de género
- El Placer: Mujeres, coca y guerra en el Bajo Putumayo
The project also produced a toolkit to be used by historical memory workers in communities that have experienced violent conflict. [Click here to view and download a toolkit for the construction of historical memory]. This toolkit is now being translated into English, with support from the Swiss government.
These books provide important windows into how violence against women occurred within the armed conflict, the gender discriminatory mechanisms involved in that violence, the participation of women within that violence, and also the resistance initiatives promoted by women. The project included memory memory workshops with victims in the Caribbean coastal region, a photography exhibition, and the creation of therapy protocols and psycho-social aid for victims.
Heading off to the launch of the final report. No time to add pictures now… maybe later.