‘We Managed to Participate, but We Had to Fight for It’: Collective Reparation and Women in Colombia

‘We Managed to Participate, but We Had to Fight for It’: Collective Reparation and Women in Colombia

Collective reparations emerged in Colombia within the legal framework of the peace process of the Government of Álvaro Uribe Vélez with the United Self-defense Forces of Colombia (AUC in Spanish) of 2005. The legal framework focused on the rights of the victims to Truth, Justice and Reparation as part of former paramilitary members’ reincorporation and accountability process.


Promoting the participation of the victims and establishing criteria for reparation was entrusted to a Special Commission for Reparation and Reconciliation, which in subsequent years elaborated the eligibility and steps for collective reparation with greater precision and introduced a gender approach. 

Read the introduction blog to this mini-series by clicking here

In the current Colombian legislation, collective reparation is defined as a set of measures aimed at compensating the harm that groups, social and political organizations, and communities suffered in the context of the armed conflict. The particularities of the process were structured based on the Victims’ Law issued in 2011 and the complementary elements added by the peace process with the Armed Revolutionary Forces of Colombia (FARC in Spanish). The collective reparations regimen recognizes that the armed conflict impacted the forms of organization, collective practices and projects, self-recognition, and the relationship these groups had with land and territory. It provides the steps to recover and repair groups’ sense of collective identity, repairs the harm suffered, and strengthen their ability to heal and maintain their organizations.

Multiple national and local ethnic, political, and social groups and communities and even municipalities are currently subject to collective reparation. This reparation takes place in a complex institutional process that involves collective participation in the definition of all steps. However, progress has been well below expectations: less than 25% of the cooperative subjects have defined reparation plans, and the implementation of reparation measures is low.


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From the perspective of reparation to women’s groups, there has been an essential qualitative leap since the first peace agreement (AUC) in 2005 with a practically non-existent gender approach to a paradigmatic peace process with the FARC. For the first time in a peace process, a Gender Subcommittee was established to fully integrate the gender approach in the peace agreement. Women from both the FARC and state delegations participated prominently in the negotiations. 

The incorporation of the gender approach in the thematic components of the agreement, from access and formalization of rural property to women’s political participation, was achieved thanks to the work of women and their organizations. This draws attention to a situation having significant legal and political consequences: women suffered specifically and disproportionately the effects of the armed conflict, and at the same time, they are agents who, in many cases, were victimized precisely because of their humanitarian, social, and political actions. Women are victims but also play a fundamental role in the construction and maintenance of peace.

From the perspective of reparation to women’s groups, there has been an essential qualitative leap since the first peace agreement (AUC) in 2005 with a practically non-existent gender approach to a paradigmatic peace process with the FARC

From these two perspectives, as victims and political agents, women have identified critical points in the collective reparation processes related to the impact of reparation measures on social and economic inequalities that are, in turn, based on power relations affecting women and girls.  One critical point is that Colombian women seek reparation measures that will have a tangible impact on their autonomy and economic empowerment to reduce pronounced gender gaps, exemplified by the feminization of poverty and the lack of their income. A second critical area is the adoption of reparation measures aimed at cultural recognition or the modification of stereotypes and representations of forms of violence and discrimination exacerbated by the armed conflict and devaluing the feminine. Lastly, women seek equitable representation in collective reparation processes (particularly in mixed groups) so that their interests and needs are represented.

The Colombian women’s movement has travelled a long and arduous path to recognize the impact of the armed conflict on their lives and ensure transitional justice processes respond to the political and social agenda of their dynamic and diverse movement. There is still a long way to go, but, without a doubt, progress is the product of women’s struggles.


On April 19, 2021, the CIPS at the University of Ottawa, in collaboration with the Just Governance Group and other partners, held a webinar on Peace with Justice in Colombia. This blog by panellist Nelson Ovalle Diaz on the implementation of crucial transitional justice provisions in the Colombian peace accords is one of three blogs in this series. 

Main Photo by Rebecca Gerome, Partner: IANSA Colombia, Location: Cali, Colombia (Creative Commons)

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