How different can be the challenges faced by women in Georgia and Colombia? Despite the long distance and the different nature of their conflicts, in terms of the promotion of women’s rights, Colombia and Georgia have many things in common, both paradigms and challenges as well as a vibrant civil society working on the agenda of women, peace and security.
Colombian has experienced the armed conflict for almost 60 years which might be nearing its end. The ongoing peace talks with FARC (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia ) to achieve the "General Agreement on the end of the conflict and on building a stable and lasting peace" is on its final phase. Five of seven topics have been agreed already regarding the agricultural development policy, political participation, the solving of the drug problem and the rights of victims including the transitional justice framework.
Beyond the dynamics of their conflicts, both Colombia and Georgia share big challenges such as the displacement and the attention to population affected by the conflict. Women have particularly received the impact of the conflict, however, their resilience capacity have made them possible to move from the condition of victims to the exercise of leadership within their communities.
Georgia and Colombia also share a commitment with the implementation of the international mechanisms for the promotion and protection of women’s rights. They both have subscribed the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action as well as the responsibilities on gender equality included in the Millennium Development Goals and the Conference on Population and Development, among others.
Georgia adopted a National Action Plan (NAP) for the implementation of the UN Security Council Resolutions on Women, Peace and Security setting a precedent in the Caucasus. On the other hand, Colombia has not explicitly done it despite the fact of having already all the institutional and legal mechanisms in place regarding the provisions of these resolutions.
Women, peace and security agenda: Achievements ad gaps
The best mechanism in the field of prevention is the existence of a strong legal and institutional framework aimed to promote and guarantee the full enjoyment of rights for women. Building on that, Colombian and Georgian government have developed important mechanisms at all levels of the public power.
Colombia developed a comprehensive and inter-agency “Public Policy on Gender Equality for Women” including the “National Plan to guarantee a life free of violence”. This policy is the result of a national consultation with women from different regions and sectors which made possible to design proposals in the following priority areas: Cultural transformation, economic autonomy, political participation in decision making processes, health, education, and GBV. This experience of participatory design of public policies is an important lesson that Colombia can share as a mechanism of women’s political empowerment and strengthening of citizenship.
In legislative initiatives, important achievements have been made. In Georgia, the Law on Gender Equality (2010) and the Law on the Elimination of Domestic violence, protection and assistance to the victims of domestic violence (2012), and in Colombia, the Law 1257, 2008, “For the right of women to a life free of violence” is a key stepping stone in the understanding of all dimensions of violence. For this reason, it proposes an interagency strategy including the Ministries of Justice, Education, Labor and Health among others.
In the field of protection, a succesful story in Colombia is the comprehensive strategy on Fighting impunity in gender based violence which includes a judiciary component and the integral attention to victims. This strategy allows the identification of cases, the assesment to attorneys and judiciary servants at the local level as well as the indentification of barriers in the access to justice. In the same way, it provides an integral response to victims including health and psychological attention.
In terms of the protection of victims’ rights, Colombia has an unprecedented experience with the Law on Victims and Land Restitution which adopts international patterns on “Truth, justice, protection and guarantees of no repetition, as well as reparation”. Within the 7.675.032 victims registered in Colombia, 3.808.979 are women. For that reason, important efforts have been made through the process individual reparation in which more than 85.000 plans have been designed in which 68% are addressed to women.
Participation, the third pillar in the agenda of “women, peace and security” is a vital condition for the full enjoyment of women rights and the basis for a sustainable peace. The Law on Quotas was approved in Colombia in 2000, as a key stepping stone to promote women’s involvement in politics. However, there is still a long road to fulfill the 30% which the law sets as minimum of representation of women in public sector.
“A new agenda”, the campaign leading in Georgia to increase women’s representation in Parliament through introducing gender quotas must be enforced. Nevertheless, the experience in Colombia, and other countries which have implemented the quota system confirmed that the quota is a first step but not an end itself. More efforts must be made in the field of education, political culture as well as the electoral system in order to overcome the glass ceiling and to achieve the effective involvement of women at the highest level of decision making processes.
Last but not least, it is important to analyze the involvement of women in peace negotiation, a core issue in the agenda of “Women, Peace and security”. In Georgia, women’s organizations have played a key role advocating at the institutional level in order to get women involved in the ongoing Geneva Talks as well as the IPRM mechanism.On the other hand, through the instrument of “people to people diplomacy”, women at the grassroots level have contributed in creating scenarios for dialogue and trust building.
In Colombia, the peace talks with the FARC have gradually increased the participation of women. The predominant male Negotiation Table at the beginning has evolved by incorporating women delegates and creating in September 2014, the gender subcommittee in order to guarantee that the final agreement effectively takes into account the agenda of women and gender equality and allow women to participate in the design of policies and strategies to face the challenges of post conflict. These achievements would have not been possible without the decisive and strong action of women’s organizations who mobilized grassroots and academia all over the country and advocated with international community to raise awareness on the contribution to women in conflict resolution and peacebuilding. In the same way, through the Summit of Women and Peace, women contributed specific proposals for the different topics discussed in the peace talks.
Both for Georgia and Colombia, the evaluation of the implementation of the policies and strategies on “Women, Peace and Security” often get to the argument “strong measures, weak implementation” which has become almost a “common place”. Beyond, that general assumption is important to understand and to address the structural causes of this low implementation in some areas.
Firstly, the social barriers based on gender stereotypes and role models widespread both within Georgian and Colombian society. In that sense, the importance of education on human rights, culture and the involvement of media which can promote a new wave in the socio-cultural understanding of women’s role in society
Another structural barrier remains in the weak political will to prioritize women’s rights as a precondition for a sustainable peace and development. The need of gender sensitive policy makers as well as tangible commitment expressed in the exercise of budgeting and planning considering a gender perspective. In the same way, the Human rights based approach and gender perspective must be recognized as a core instrument in the processes of design, monitoring and evaluation of public policies rather than an accessory narrative. The dialogue with civil society is critical in this matter from the accountability perspective and on the other hand as a source of initiatives and alternative strategies to promote women’s involvement in all sectors of society.