Black Women Ask “What about the State”?
Second community hearing
Second Community Hearing
Black Women Ask "What About the State"?
Bogotá, Colombia - Octuber 14th, 2021
In late 2021, women leadership from PCN, Kambirí, Valle de Bendiciones, la Red de Mujeres del Caribe, and la Casa Cultural El Chontaduro held regional hearings on the theme “Black Women Ask ‘What About the State’?” The events focused on the Colombian government’s role in creating and exacerbating situations of violence against Afro-descendant women.
The sessions considered how the state—through racist practices, harmful economic measures, labor exploitation, dispossession of territory and denial of basic services—can impede Afro-descendant women and their communities from existing and developing in conditions of dignity.
Afro-descendant women and autonomous authorities in three regions presented cases demonstrating the impacts of state action and inaction, and community members discussed how these issues can be effectively addressed.
The process kicked off with a press conference on October 11 that convened local and regional media to learn about the objectives of the hearings and about the VigiaAfro database on gender-based violence against Afro-descendants.
Subtitles for the video are available in both Spanish and English. To view the subtitles, click on the settings button, then subtitles, and select your language.”
The Hearing was designed as an autonomous space for generating strategies that allow us to advocate for policies of prevention, protection, care and comprehensive reparations before our own autonomous authorities, the state and transitional and international justice systems.
Why are we conducting a community hearing?
The territories of Black/ Afro-descendant people have been the site of dispute for economic and political control, which has generated severe damage to the physical, emotional, spiritual, cultural and community integrity of Black/ Afro-descendant women.
In the context of decades-long war, crimes against humanity and human rights violations—which include various forms of violence committed on the basis of gender, ethnic-racial identity, and collective organizing—are linked to state- led models of development and economic policies which prioritize the interests of development and exploitation of resources over collective territorial rights.
Amid victimization and the impacts of racial and gender- based violence, women lack adequate access to services, healing, justice and reparations. Despite the 2016 Peace Accord, our rights continue to be violated by state and illegal armed actors, as well as ongoing discrimination, racism, sexism, and impunity for the violence against us.
Community Hearings are a collective mechanism for listening, for denouncing and for coordinating actions to eradicate the elements that damage our lives as Black/ Afro-descendant women. For this reason, we focused this first hearing on what we consider to be the roots of the various forms of violence that have impacted our lives historically and within the framework of the war: development and racism.
Second Community Hearing
First Listening Session
The first listening session, held in Bogotá on October 14, 2021, captured Afro-descendant women and girls’ experiences as members of communities of families that have been forcibly displaced to urban centers. This session focused on the state’s role in creating conditions for violence against Afro-descendant women, including through lack of labor protections and enforcement, as well as police violence and racial profiling.
Participants presented two case studies of police violence against Afro-descendant women. They reflected on the blockage of services and the lack of protection of Afro-descendent women’s labor rights. Two international activists, Marcia Olivo, the Director of AfroResistence, an organization which works for racial justice across the Americas, and Gisele dos Anjos Santos, author of “We are all Queens,” on the history of Black women in Brazil, addressed the session. Ms. Olivo reflected on Black women and girls’ multiple barriers to democratic participation and control of their own bodies and lives, including forced displacement, denial of education and other barriers to sexual and reproductive health rights.
Ms. Dos Santos reflected on the similarities between the experiences of Black women in Brazil and Colombia, and the need for joint action. Afro-descendant autonomous authorities articulated a set of calls on the government, non-governmental organizations and the Afro-descendant community to take Afro-descendant women’s participation in peacebuilding seriously and to ensure justice for oppression and human rights violations against them.
The authorities decried the government of Colombia for failing to meet its obligations to prevent and ensure justice for violence against Afro-descendant women. They called on the state to take up its responsibilities through implementing policies that address underlying inequalities that promote violence. They called on their community members and their allies to demand full implementation of the laws and policies intended to support Afro-descendant women and their communities.
La protección de la vida en nuestros territorios.”
Second & Third Listening Sessions
At the second session in Riohacha on October 19, 2021, Afro-descendant women participants emphasized the ongoing need for Afro-descendant women to be both heard and heeded at all levels—in their direct communities, in Colombia’s peacebuilding context, and in organizing spaces.
They discussed the ways in which the State not only ignores gender violence against Afro-descendants but helps create the conditions of women’s marginalization.
One participant decried Afro-descendant women’s exclusion from meaningful participation in state-led development plans.
Another denounced the state-imposed barriers that her community has faced while seeking collective title to their traditional territory since 2017
A planned session in Turbo had to be rescheduled at the last minute due to increased fighting in the region between the Autodefensas Gaitanistas de Colombia, the Ejercito de Liberación Nacional and the Government.
In a statement, VigiaAfro highlighted the role of the state’s failure to fully implement the 2016 Peace Accord, including its Ethnic Chapter, rural reform provisions, gender provisions, and security guarantees, in encouraging the violence.
The session was finally held on November 27-28, 2021, with more than 60 participants. The session publicized the collected voices and words of dozens of Afro-descendant women from various communities. Speakers visibilized the distinct types of violence that Afro-descendant women have faced at the hands of state and non-state armed actors, as well as by other institutional actors and community members.
The event also offered an opportunity for women to share their hopes for a better future. Speakers called for guarantees to be able to live in dignity and to participate meaningfully in peacebuilding and governance.
Fourth Listening Session
The events culminated with a final hearing led by Afro-descendant women’s organizations, together with their international allies, in Bogotá.
The session began with a general overview of the humanitarian situation Afro-descendant women face, including ongoing persecution of them and their communities.
PCN leadership described Afro-descendant women’s system of security, protection and contextualized care in the framework of the 2016 Peace Accord and its Ethnic Chapter.
Testimony and videos from prior hearings were shared, as was information and documentation collected for VigiaAfro, the observatory on gender violence against Afro-descendants.
International observers and Autonomous authorities called for the Colombian Government and international stakeholders to create conditions for justice for Afro-descendant women, including by meaningfully implementing all provisions of the 2016 Peace Accord, and ensuring justice for racial and gender persecution against them.