“Peace is living in the country, being able to plant seeds, work the land and thrive as Indigenous women”
Damaris is an Indigenous woman from the north of Colombia. She is 38 years old and dresses in traditional mantas that her mother taught her how to weave. As a response to the mining activity that has seriously damaged the region’s ecosystem, Damaris began rallying the women in her community to demand that the environment be respected. Despite being a natural-born leader, the cultural dynamics within her community have made it difficult for her to exercise her leadership as a woman. Her family and members of her community have criticised her work as a leader and complain that she should be at home looking after her children. In spite of these obstacles, Damaris continues to bring together more and more Indigenous women and to condemn the violation of Indigenous women’s rights in her region.
A little more than five years ago, Damaris received threats that forced her to leave the country, with the help of an international organisation, for just over a year. After the signing of the Peace Agreement, Damaris decided to return to Colombia; however, a few months later, the threats started up again. Two men on a motorcycle sent her a message through her son telling her that if she did not leave, they would make her disappear. Damaris was granted protection measures, though this came with an additional financial burden: she had to pay for her bodyguard’s travel and, on many occasions, his food. Furthermore, as her bodyguard was not from an Indigenous community, she was not allowed to enter several of the Indigenous communities with whom Damaris worked. Consequently, the situation was unsustainable and she decided to forego the measures she had been granted.
For Damaris, protection goes beyond having a bodyguard and a mobile phone. For her, safety can only be achieved by working with the community and strengthening its organisation at a social and spiritual level.