What are community hearings?
Community hearings on gender-based violence in Afro- descendant communities are spaces for visibilizing and denouncing violence against Black / Afro-descendant women within our diverse identities, in order to generate strategies that allow us to advocate before local and national authorities, and domestic and international justice mechanisms, for greater access to prevention, protection, care and provision of comprehensive reparations for this violence.
Community hearings are designed to help the public understand the scope, causes, and impacts of gender-based violence committed in contexts of armed conflict and racism, and the importance of prioritizing it in transitional justice processes. Directed by civil society, these hearings can help communities heal and change harmful narratives on gender-based violence by reducing stigma and helping to transform victims into survivors.
Community hearings can become protection mechanisms themselves. The presence of women, autonomous authorities, experts, and institutions, alongside public exposure the hearings generate, make the territory visible and contribute to generating elements of care and protection in areas where communities, leaders and defenders are in a situation of constant risk. For this reason, media and institutional engagement and follow up actions are important.
Why hold community hearings?
Territories in Colombia with predominantly Afro-descendant populations have historically faced abandonment by the State, armed conflicts, structural racism and economic, political and social exclusion.
Afro-descendant women have also had to face misogyny, patriarchal and sexist practices and brutal patterns of violence against their bodies, their families and their territories. Centuries of gender, racial and social injustice require actions that visibilize these acts, their impacts and the damage they cause, pushing to the State, institutions and society to commit to radically transform together.
In Colombia at least 4.2 million women have been victims of armed conflict.
More than 400,000 Black/ Afro-descendant women have suffered the economic, physical, emotional, cultural and spiritual impacts of internal forced displacement.
The Peace Agreement signed in 2016 mandates truth, justice, reparation and non-repetition processes with a gender focus linked to an ethnic perspective.
The transitional justice system led by the state is important, but ongoing violence as well as this system’s structure create barriers to broad participation and access to justice for Black/ Afro-descendant women.
In addition, the community hearings on gender-based violence against Black and African-descendant women are intended to support transition processes in communities that have not yet participated in official processes.
Community hearings are a response to the ongoing need for efforts led by civil society and women themselves to spread the truth, encourage healing and promote the commitment by official mechanisms to guarantee the adequate reparation and guarantees of non-repetition.
How are community hearings organized?
Women’s organizations and other community organizations that struggle for Black/ Afro-descendent women’s rights work together to offer critical analysis of the contexts and violence that is impacting their lives, from an intersectional gender and anti-racist perspective that exposes the structural and structuring roots of violent forms of racial and gender economic oppression.
Victims, survivors and thematic experts organize information and document cases to present public testimony through documentaries, texts, keynote and artistic presentations that give relevance to their voices and experiences. The testimonies are heard by the commissioners, autonomous authorities and invited entities and agencies, which then, according to their roles and responsibilities produce observations, recommendations and communications that contribute to generating attention and preventive and transformative actions.
Communication is an important component of hearings. Each hearing requires strategically designed communications that include graphic, audio and video promotional pieces that are educational and motivate concrete actions. Each hearing includes a press conference where local, community, national and international alternative media play the role of helping to break the silence, indifference to, and normalization of, violence against Black/ Afro-descendant women.
Community hearings are also internal processes of collective consultation, research, documentation, dialogue and production of knowledge among women. Their task of documenting, writing, designing and organizing weaves a fabric of strengths, sisterhood and accompaniment that ensures the process is sustainable and not to be limited to a single action. This is the biggest challenge facing community hearings.
Our community hearings are developed with respect for the principle of care and self-care, which guarantees safe spaces for participation, belonging and free enjoyment of the spaces under the care of our spiritual leaders and Guardias Cimarronas (Maroon Guard).
Where do community hearings take place?
The hearings can be regional, national, or both. Some national hearings may require local processes from which the national hearing can be built.
The community hearings on gender-based violence against Black/ Afro-descendant women in Colombia take place on Colombian territory, primarily in the ancestral territories of Afro-descendant people, whether urban or rural, in such a way as to constitute spaces for accompaniment and territorial visibility.
The choice of the territory plays a strategic role in the objectives and results of the hearing. Each community hearing defines the territorial criteria for its realization.
The territory as a subject of rights and a victim of violence has its specific place throughout the process of planning and holding the community hearing.