“City of Women”

Displaced by violence, Colombian women build their own city

Liga de Mujeres Desplazadas. (Facebook)

Some 6 million Colombians, more than half of them women, have been forced out of their homes due to a decades-long conflict between leftist guerrilla groups and parliamentary forces.  On a plot of land outside the municipality of Turbaco, a group of displaced women have convened to build themselves a new home. They call themselves “The League of Displaced Women,” and their village the “City of Women.”

According to a feature in The Guardian, the idea for a female-fronted village was first conceived by displaced women living in El Pozón, an impoverished neighborhood of Cartagena. “We realized we had so many things in common that were affecting us,” said Yajaira Mejía, whose husband was murdered in 2001. “We were in a critically vulnerable state.” With the help of Patricia Guerrero, a lawyer from Bogotá, the women lobbied government agencies and eventually were granted enough money to buy land on the outskirts of Turbaco. The League of Displaced Women trained in construction, and began building houses. There are now 102 homes in the City of Women.

The League’s path to independence has not been easy. Because they were labeled as leftist guerillas, they have been susceptible to violence by right wing forces. Unidentified men once set fire to the City of Women’s communal hall, and the daughter of a founding League member was murdered. The partner of another League member was killed and dismembered.

But the women have not been deterred from their mission to empower female victims of internecine violence. The League has submitted a complaint with the Inter-American Commission of Human Rights, claiming that the Colombian government failed to protect them from gender-based violence. And Patricia Guerrero, who is now the director of the League, has been pressing the government to expand the City of Women. “We built 100 houses,” she told The Guardian. “[T]he government should build 100 more for other members of the organization.”

Read the full story at The Guardian.

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