Guest Posts (International)

Being a Woman in Colombia

It’s surprising how sometimes we generalize being a woman in such a diverse zone like Latin America.  I have lived for twenty years in Mexico City, and until last year  I had the opportunity of living five months in Colombia. I transformed my ideas of being a woman by getting to know about the different concepts on females and their participation in Latin-American societies.  This short article doesn’t have any anthropological pretension and it will be based on my humble opinions.

Colombia is a religious country, almost all the population is Catholic or Christian, and there is still a vision of women as the ones who have to take care of home and children, even if they earned a profession. I found it very funny that in the student residence where I lived, with 40 girls between 17 and 34 years old, the majority of my roommates loved Mexican soap operas and although they were studying, their dream was to marry a Mexican guy like the one they see in those TV shows. I also noticed with my older roomies a strong social and cultural pressure about their civil state where their priority was to find a husband in order to have kids.

In Colombia, and most Latin American countries, women “have to be pretty and tidy” all the time, detracting intellectual aspects. In Bogotá’s streets, it’s easy to get for less than 3 dollars a haircut and manicure but it’s almost impossible to find a book cheaper than 10 dollars. As well, I saw women finding themselves in an educative and labor disadvantage, despite the fact that they represent 50% of the labor force of technicians and professionals, they just conformed the 38% of executive or directive positions[1], this reflects the lack of political participation where the 51% of the population are women, only the 9.38% of them are governors, 9.81% mayors, 17.94% deputies, 16.08% councilors, and 16.6% occupy charges in the Senate[2], a clear example of this were the past elections for mayor of Bogotá where among 11 candidates, there was only one was a woman.

Throughout its history, Colombia has been considered as one of the most violent countries in Latin America, the death and violence rate product of the drug trafficking situation had definitively decreased. Still I observed structural violence in the few state covers of the basic services, noting  a minor cover for women, especially indigenous. In addition to what has been mentioned above, in Colombia abortion is penalized, but of course you can find multiple centers of illegal abortion that realized more than 400 thousand aborts in a year[3], united to the lack of sexual education and sanity campaigns.

Colombia is one of the Latin American countries with a mayor rate of domestic violence, couple violence and sexual violence. And it’s important to mention the exponential rise of the forced intern displacement rates that indigenous and rural communities suffer because of paramilitary or guerrilla groups –it’s estimated that until now there have been more than 5 millions of displaced people- being the 80% of the displaced people are women and children, and the 43% of the displaced families have feminine leadership and the 68% of the displaced women are the householder alone[4].  

To conclude, I would like us to rethink in different ways in spite of the fact that violence permeates our  lives and  has become a quotidian act, nowadays the tangible violence rates have decreased, they are still emerging in social dynamics, especially when we talk about women or cultural groups. It is impressive how greater steps have been taken for recognizing the rights of women-  and  multiple fights have been won in favor of gender equity. In Latin America we are still immersed in sexist dynamics and in quotidian situations soaked of violence, no matter the social class, the scholar level, the cultural group of belonging, the urban or rural environment; we just need to take a glance around to see that in our families, in our friendship circle, classroom, work, etc., we are reproducing violent dynamics all the time. It is time to change this cycle.

The author of this post is Gabriela Amor, a Mexican student who enjoys traveling and meeting new cultures. She has participated in different peace initiatives including People to People’s Peace-camp in Egypt.

[1] Balance de la consejería presidencial para la equidad de la mujer.2007 www.presidencia.gov.co en Caputto Silva, Luz Amparo “La mujer en Colombia: educación para la democracia y democracia en la educación”, Revista educación y Desarrollo Social, Volumen II No. 1, 2008.

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