Over and over, people proclaimed to us that peace is not made solely by signing an accord at the national level on one special day but by transforming violence at the local level every single day. Long-term activists throughout the country spoke strongly about their determination to maintain the ceasefire and to address the underlying cultural roots of violence. For women activists, this commitment includes addressing patriarchal structures which perpetuate violence toward women within the family as well as within the war. Of the victims of the armed conflict, 75% are women.
In Monteria, northeast Colombia, we met with 10 peace and human rights activists including three AVP facilitators, members of the Citizen Commission on Reconciliation and Peace, the Youth Network, Prison Ministry, and Victims Committee. The conversation was riveting, revealing the dramatic reality of violence in the area and the transformational impact of AVP. When asked whether the peace discourse in Colombia included an understanding of overcoming violence toward women in the home, all the men immediately said no, while the women emphatically said yes. The women emphasized the high levels of sexual violence toward women in the war and the uninterrupted spectrum of violence from the private to the public spheres. There was much interest expressed for AVP workshops with women and children victims of sexual and gender violence. Participants shared moving stories of forgiveness toward perpetrators. With emotion, one victim explained she went to the prison to speak with the man who murdered her loved one: I forgive you! But… PLEASE, tell me where the body is!