“You have to have a gun to your head before they offer you any protection…”
Marleny is a 35-year-old Afro-descendant woman. She was born and grew up on the Colombian Pacific coast. She is very close to her large, extended family. She has always stood up against injustice and suffering. This led her to become involved with organisations that defend the rights of Afro-descendant individuals in Colombia. A few years ago, she denounced the arrival of paramilitary forces in her community and spoke out about how this had affected their lives. As a result, she and her family members began receiving threats, which culminated in her being sexually assaulted. She was forced to flee her community with her children. She now lives far away from the rest of her family and her community. She continued to work as a human rights defender and the threats against her and against her son did not abate. She decided to petition the State for protection measures. The process dragged on for several years and measures were only taken after she and her 10-year-old son were attacked, leaving her with walking difficulties and her son emotionally scarred (being only 10 years old at the time of the incident). She was given a constricting, heavy bulletproof vest to wear, which she rarely uses as it singles her out as a possible target for violence and puts her in greater danger. She was also assigned a bodyguard, who appears to be keeping the National Protection Unit (UNP) informed of her activities and who sometimes refuses to accompany her to her places of work. She believes that her community is best suited to protect her and would like them to receive some kind of training and resources to be able to do so, since she knows she can trust them.