Human Rights Award 2016

La Ruta Pacífica de las Mujeres, Colombia

The Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung’s Human Rights Award 2016 recognizes La Ruta Pacífica de las Mujeres’ (in short: Ruta Pacífica, in English: The Women’s Pacifist Route) long-standing and persistent commitment to putting an end to and process the violent conflict in Colombia, as well as to strengthening women’s rights and to furthering women’s participation in the peace process.

During the last few months, the peace process in Colombia developed positively. This would not have been possible without civil society organisations which have nurtured the “flame of hope” for years. One of the most important organisations here is La Ruta Pacífica de las Mujeres. Through its work, it contributed to two distinctive features of the Colombian peace process: for the first time, the victims of a conflict will participate in peace negotiations and it is also the first time that the history of a conflict will be reviewed while this conflict is still going on.

If peace is to be secured in Colombia, considerable efforts of many persons and organisations will still be needed. Ruta Pacífica may play an important role here, too, because the movement has offered non-violent resistance against different forms of the violation of human rights and repression for a long time and is an outstanding example how women, and women’s organisations, can stand up for their rights independently.

The Political Context

For decades, the international image of Colombia has been dominated by a domestic conflict, crime and drug cartels. Nevertheless, the country has been on the road to recovery for at least ten years. Even though organised (economic) crime remains a major challenge, the drug cartels were broken up. Also the negotiations between the government and the FARC guerilla have reached a stage where, in all probability, a peace agreement can be signed within the first half of 2016.

Even if this is accomplished, Colombia will still be marked by enormous social inequality and an institutional landscape which is an obstacle to finding fast solutions to the numerous socio-economic problems. However, the world’s longest-lasting armed conflict would finally come to an end.

It would be immensely important for the population of Colombia if this conflict could be ended through negotiations. Particularly in many rural areas the civilian population has suffered far too long, and still suffers, from the conflict and experiences numerous violations of its fundamental rights. It is especially women who are affected by this, for example by displacement or sexual violence. In this regard, Colombia is no exception. More than 15 years ago, the UN Security Council adopted Resolution 1325, which calls for special protection of women and girls in times of war and for their equal participation in peace processes. Those objectives have not yet been achieved – women continue to experience multiple violations of their rights, sexual and gendered violence during conflicts.

It is obvious that the signing of a peace agreement would not mean the end of working for peace in Colombia; it would be a partial victory. A successful peace process and the implementation of the agreements require a vibrant, powerful civil society.

The Project

Ruta Pacífica is a feminist movement that has been calling for a solution of the armed conflict through negotiations for 20 years. It has made a special contribution to making visible how the war has affected women, it campaigns for claiming the rights of truth and justice, and it advocates for a participative culture of memory. The movement received great attention particularly through demonstrations characterized by a variety of creative elements.

Ruta Pacífica is an alliance of almost 300 organisations, in which women of all social strata and from the most important conflict regions have united. On the regional and local levels, it strives to concretely help women to come to terms with the horrors of the war and overcome them, for example by way of providing legal advice, socio-psychological support, and cultural and educational programmes.

Ruta Pacífica especially distinguishes itself by the shift in perspective brought about by the organisation and its members: the women of Ruta Pacífica do no longer perceive themselves exclusively as victims of the conflict but as social and political actors who actively participate in the peace process.

An important project initiated by Ruta Pacífica was its own truth and memory commission. Within this framework, Ruta Pacífica collected over 1,000 individual testimonies of women whose human rights were violated in the context of the armed conflict. The report of this commission, which was explicitly supported by grass-roots activists, is regarded as an important contribution to the ongoing peace negotiations, to the process of searching for truth and to a culture of.

In recognition of this outstanding work, Ruta Pacífica is supported by a great number of national and international organisations. Representatives of the network participate regularly in the debates organised by FES Colombia. In 2014, Ruta Pacífica was awarded the Premio Nacional de Paz with FES Colombia as a co-presenter.

The Representative

As a representative of the many thousands of women associated in Ruta Pacífica, Marina Gallego, its national coordinator, is to receive the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung Human Rights Award 2016. Marina Gallego has received high recognition for providing an impetus to political discussions about human rights, armed conflicts and peacemaking from women’s point of view.

Marina Gallego is one of the founders of Ruta Pacífica de las Mujeres and presently the national coordinator who manages the organisation. In this function, she organised the country-wide mobilisation of women which also received international attention. Being a qualified lawyer, she also coordinated the truth and memory commission within Ruta Pacífica and supported it as a part of the research team.

As a member of the first expert delegation in the field of gender, which travelled to Havana in December 2014, she actively participated in the peace negotiations between the Colombian government and the FARC guerilla. In the same year, she was included in the list of the most important personalities of the year by El Tiempo, the country’s highest circulation daily newspaper.


Further Information

Reasons for Nominating Ruta Pacífica
Websites of the Award Winner
Ruta Pacífica de las Mujeres
youtube-channel of Ruta Pacífica

Audio Podcasts
Interview with Maria Gallego (German)
Interview with Maria Gallego (Spanish)

Media Coverage related to the award ceremonyVorwä Die Macht der Männer überwinden (German)
Wolf-Dieter Vogel: Der Pfad der Frauen (German)
DRadio Kultur: Jetzt müssen die Frauen ran (German) Luchadoras incansables (Spanish) Premio de Derechos Humanos (Spanish) Ruta de las Mujeres, premiada en Berlín por una paz "imparable" para Colombia (Video, Spanish)
Funkhaus Europa: La Ruta Pacífica de las colombianas (Audio, Spanish)

Reports on Ruta Pacífica and women's activism in Colombia (in Spanish; on Ruta Pacífica) (in Spanish; on Ruta Pacífica)
FES Newsletter Lateinamerika & Karibik, 12/2014, p. 17 (in German; on the Premio Nacional de Paz 2014 awarded to Ruta Pacífica) (in German; on Ruta Pacífica's truth and memory commission) (in English; on women's role in the peace process) (in English; on women's role in the peace process)

Publications of Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung
FES Infobrief Gender Matters 05/2015 (in German)
Propuestas de paz territorial desde los movimientos sociales, Analysis of FES Colombia, 10/2015 (in Spanish)
Los retos en convivencia, administración de justicia y seguridad rural en el posconflicto Analysis of FES Colombia, 2/2015 (in Spanish)
Kolumbien entscheidet sich für den Frieden, Perspective of FES Colombia, 7/2014 (in German)

All FES-Publications on Colombia are available here.

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