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9 November 2017 | Interviews | Monitoring transnationals | Resisting neoliberalism | Human rights | Gender | Extractive industries | Climate Justice and Energy | Social activists at risk | Mano a Mano
“As women, we are the ones who maintain hope. And I think that while we do this, we need to encourage many other women and tell them to dare to go out, to raise their voices, to avoid being afraid to speak. (…) Women have been told to be afraid within our social and cultural circles. (…) We are covered by a blanket of fear, but we need to move forward with a blanket of hope”, said Jakeline Romero Epiayu.
In a public event carried out on September 19th in Bogota, capital city of Colombia, the organization Fuerza de Mujeres Wayuu was awarded with the National Human Rights Defense Award, in the category of collective experiences or processes. The Award is given by international NGO Diakonia and the Church of Sweden, with the support of the Swedish government.
Fuerza de Mujeres Wayuu, from La Guajira department, Colombia, is an organization created in 2006 through an alliance between communities, settlements and social processes, aiming to raise awareness on the violation of human rights and ethnical rights of communities. The organization has also led campaigns denouncing the negative consequences of mining-energy megaprojects in the region.
Activist Jakeline Romero Epiayu, active member of Fuerza de Mujeres Wayuu stated in an extensive interview with Real World Radio that the award is a “boost” for the organization and its members, who have lived many situations of violence, threats and stigmatization for defending human rights and territories in Colombia, especially in a context where they face extractive projects, such as El Cerrejón open pit coal mine, one of the largest of Latin America, located in La Guajira.
Romero made reference to the multiple challenges they face as an organization in the Colombian context, related to the processes of resistance of communities against extractivism and companies. For years, communities have been threatened and displaced from their territories, without their rights being respected. The social leader also talked about the challenges faced by women exclusively when they decide to organize themselves, including the risks they suffer. “Their lives are constantly threatened. We see cases in the country where many people are murdered for saying things that someone doesn´t like, companies don´t like, the governments don´t like, politicians don´t like. As women, we are more vulnerable because we face different situations than men. The fear of being raped, for instance, the fear of having your children murdered. The impact this has on women, being victims of some kind of threat will always be different. And I also think that intentions will always be different by the perpetrator”.
In response to these situations, Romero said that “if people have the need to threaten, it is because we are doing something right (…) The message is to look for more allies, to raise our voices, because that is a way to protect the life of the organization, its members, in such difficult times”. “We see that the government continues granting territories in concession, energy-mining companies continue to arrive, pursuing our natural resources. This is a huge contradiction in a country that supposedly aims for peace”, added the activist. According to international organizations, Colombia continues being the country where most environmental and territory defenders are killed with impunity.
Romero then gave a message to indigenous and non-indigenous women: to dare. “Doing what we are doing is worth it, supporting others, being the voice of those who many times can´t have a voice is worth it (…) Certainly we will not transform the world, but we will make a contribution that will surely transform somebody´s world, the world of a community. And that gives us hope”.
Interview conducted by our collaborators Aldo Orellana López, Leny Olivera Rojas, Sian Cowman and Philippa de Boissiere.
Imagen: Fuerza de Mujeres Wayuu
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