Development and Racism: realities and impacts of violence against Black / Afro-descendant women within our diverse identities

First community hearing

First Community Hearing

Development and Racism

Tumaco, Colombia - April 19th, 2021

Development and Racism: realities and impacts of violence against Black / Afro-descendant women within our diverse identities” was proposed as an autonomous space visibilizing the experiences of Black and Afro-descendant women and denouncing violations of their rights. The experiences, documentation and analysis presented at the session came directly from Black / Afro- descendant women who were disproportionate victims of the impact and damage of the war and the sources that fueled it. We, as Black/ Afro-descendant women are seeking greater guarantees of recognition, respect and promotion of our rights and ways of reparation and non-repetition.

This Community Hearing is a strategy of VigiaAfro, the Observatory on Gender-Based Violence and Human Rights, which in turn is part of the process of establishing the System of Protection and Care of Life that Proceso de Comunidades Negras has been building since 2018, with the support of its ally MADRE, linked this year through the “Afro-Colombian Initiative for Gender Justice and Peace, 2021.”

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.


The themes of this community Hearing stemmed from our experiential historical understanding of the origins and deep roots that have sustained the violence that has impeded our self-determination for centuries.

In this hearing, we focused on cases relevant to development, racism and militarism that occur in some of the most ravaged Black/ Afro- descendant territories, such as the Colombian Pacific region, the Darien area of Chocó and the Norte del Cauca region. We focused on cases in some of the places where women have suffered the greatest  brutalization, persecution, criminalization and historical discrimination both in general terms and in the framework of what is known as the armed conflict, including Bogotá, the capital of the country where our people who are expelled by the violence of development and structural racism arrive.

The testimonies presented from our voices established the connection between development policies, militarist-warmongering tendencies, racism and patriarchal culture as factors that maintain patterns of violence and violations of our rights as women and as a people.

The audience presented six testimonies grouped around the three central themes:

1.  DEVELOPMENT:  With policies and practices of the state and of the economic sector that are violently imposed, we experience plunder, exile, poverty and the murder of individuals and communities physically, culturally, environmentally and socially.

Testimony 1: “This is how poverty is caused.”

Testimony 2: “Black/ Afro- descendant women, between the sweet and the bitter”.

Testimony 3: “Illegal and unconstitutional mining”.

2.  RACISM:  An ideology of power based on the historical and contemporary dehumanization of some beings for their exploitation, and the supremacy of others who enjoy the benefits of capitalism. Racism underpins the harm and exclusion faced by Black/ Afro-descendant women and their communities, and amplifies the impact and harm of armed conflict.

Testimony 4: “Footprints: the indelible mark of racism”

Testimony 5: “Racism”

3. MILITARISM: An ideology of power that, as a thought and practice, promotes the resolution of political and social conflicts through the use of arms and the dehumanizing action of military force.

Testimony 6: “War machines”

“¿Quiénes somos?
Mujeres negras.

¿Qué queremos?
La protección de la vida en nuestros territorios.”

Who is organizing this hearing?

We are descendants and diaspora from Africa and we represent 51.4% of the Black, Afro-Colombian, Raizal and Palenquero people in Colombia.

We have a history of centuries of resistance, organization and struggle for the protection of life in all its forms, of collective rights and of our rural and urban ancestral territories where our political project and our project for life as a people are sustained.

We are women who, within our diverse identities, share a particular historical and life experience, are always confronted by structures and interests of power that dehumanize and depoliticize our beings, and that seek to keep us in a condition of exploitation and dispossession.

This community hearing was held with the participation of organizations from various areas of the country such as the Association of Afro-descendant Women of Northern Cauca (ASOM), the Network of Afro- Latin, Afro-Caribbean and Diaspora Women (REDMAAD), the Association of Community Councils of North Cauca (ACONC), the Johana Maturana Foundation, the Kambirí Women’s Network, the Caminos de Mujer Corporation, and the Valle de Bendiciones Foundation, in association with our partner organization, MADRE.

Roles in the hearing

The commissioners are women with recognized experience in the defense and protection of the rights of women and ethnic minorities who receive testimonies (before and during the hearing) to help make the realities and struggles of Black/ Afro-descendant women in Colombia visible in the country and other settings. The commissioners issued conclusions on what they heard, and proposed recommendations and actions that we can develop with State and multilateral organizations. They presented a statement at the end of the hearing and at the press conference, and issued a more elaborate final document with recommendations with the support of MADRE and the organizers. Read the conclusions of the commissioners here.
The autonomous authorities are our elders and leaders with broad recognition and experience that identifies them as political authorities. Our autonomous authorities receive the testimonies before and during the hearing and have the task of acting as guarantors and accompanying the hearing, as well as producing a set of recommendations for the authorities of the movement and for the State institutions, aimed at seeking solutions to the realities presented. Read the recommendations of the autonomous authorities here.
Spoken, written and virtual press, networks, community and alternative media, were invited to the hearing and to the press conference that took place immediately afterwards. They contributes to the visibility of the event and the realities and struggles of Black / Afro- descendant women in Colombia. We hope that they will continue to participate in the activities we are developing. Watch our multimedia content here.
The audience heard the testimonies and voices of women represented through face-to-face presentations, videos and graphic forms. Watch our multimedia content here.

Commissioners for the “Racism and Development” Community Hearing

Gay McDougall currently serves as an Independent Expert on the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination. (Her services as Commissioner for this hearing occurred prior to her most recent membership on the Committee.) She is a resident scholar at the Leitner Center for International Law and Justice at Fordham University School of Law. She served for six years as the first UN Special Rapporteur on Minorities. She also served as Special Rapporteur on the issue of systematic rape, sexual slavery and practices similar to slavery in armed conflicts; and as a member of the South African Independent Electoral Commission that conducted the country’s historic 1994 elections. She founded the Commission on the Independence of Namibia.

Madeleine Rees has been Secretary General of the International League of Women for Peace and Freedom since 2010. She began her career as a lawyer in 1990. In 1998, she began working as Head of Office in Bosnia and Herzegovina and as a gender expert for the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR). From September 2006 to April 2010, she served as head of the Women’s Rights and Gender Unit at the OHCHR. One of the main elements of her work has been to demonstrate the importance of gender and how the law should accurately describe and do justice to these different experiences.

Rosa Celorio is Associated Dean of International and Comparative Legal Studies and Burnett Family Professorial Lecturer in International and Comparative Law and Policy at George Washington University. Before joining GW, she worked for more than a decade as a senior lawyer at the InterAmerican Commission on Human Rights of the Organization of American States where she helped to shape the organization’s work on women’s rights and discrimination.

"Queremos claridad ante tanta impunidad"
"Cuando se haga justicia habrá menos sevicia"