Jineth Bedoya Lima and Mayerlis Angarita Robles are active campaigners working independently of each other at various levels and in various contexts, who complement each other in the process. The tie that binds them is their commitment to the rights and participation of women in their native country and thus vicariously for all women across the globe.
Jineth Bedoya Lima is a women’s activist who enjoys recognition both in Colombia and internationally. A journalist, she works for the largest daily newspaper in Colombia, El Tiempo. Over a number of years, she has reported on armed conflicts in Colombia and their civilian victims. Ubiquitous corruption, the lack of rule of law and immunity are the focal issues of her work.
In the year 2000, at the age of 26, she was planning a report on arms trade, forced disappearances, and on murders which were being committed by paramilitaries in a prison in Bogota with the acquiescence of government functionaries. During a visit there, she was separated from those accompanying her, kidnapped by members of the paramilitary in the prison, drugged, severely abused, and raped on multiple occasions. She was then dumped on a rural road. The perpetrators wanted this to be understood as a “message to the media”. In 2003, she was once again kidnapped in the course of her work, this time by the FARC.
Following many years of silence, she plucked up the courage in 2009 to speak out publicly, including about the acts of violence she herself had endured, and launched the campaign “No Es Hora De Callar” (Now is Not the Time to be Silent), which calls for justice to be served on the over 13,000 Colombian women who had fallen victim to rape and sexual violence during the conflict. Among their activities, Jineth Bedoya and her fellow campaigners accompany numerous trials involving survivors. The spring of 2016 finally saw two of her kidnappers and rapists sentenced for kidnapping, torture and rape – a move that has given numerous others courage and hope that justice can indeed be served on women.
Today, Jineth Bedoya is one of the leading voices in the struggle against sexual violence committed against women. Now, in the aftermath of the peace talks, a special criminal tribunal is finally to hear the sexual assaults committed during the armed conflict. The 25th of May, the day marking the first time she was kidnapped, is today the National Day for Dignity for Women Victims of Sexual Violence in Colombia. Yet, Jineth Bedoya continues to be physically threatened. The Colombian government has assigned her three bodyguards and an armored vehicle.
The activist Mayerlis Angerita Robles has been campaigning for years for land to be returned to displaced women in the Colombian region of Montes de Maria. She grew up in this region and has returned to live there – after her family had been displaced by armed groups, her uncle murdered and her mother kidnapped; both of them by paramilitaries. It was here, in the year 2000, that she founded the women’s collective “Colectivo de Mujeres Narrar para Vivir” (Women’s Collective Tell to Live). This organization comprising some 840 women identifies itself as a survivor of armed conflict in the region. As the spokeswoman of this group, Mayerlis Angarita strives to lend women a voice and also to inform them of their rights under the Victims and Land Restitution Law – the implementation of which she has been advocating for a long time. She also supported the foundation of an association of over 10,000 small-scale farmers in the region of Montes de Maria as well as the victims of expropriation through paramilitary groups and, for numerous years, the return of their land.
Mayerlis Angerita has survived two assassination attempts and faced numerous years of hostility from the guerrilla, paramilitaries and the military for the work she has undertaken on behalf of the rights of women and girls in the region. Soldiers harassed her sexually and broke her jaw when she defended herself. Despite this, she refused to be swerved from her commitment to protecting the human rights of victims of armed conflict. She was one of the first people to provide humanitarian aid to the victims of the biggest massacre by the paramilitaries in the region. In 2015, she applied for the office of mayor of her village but lost out in an internal party ballot for the candidacy.
Since 2017, she has, in her capacity as a representative of victims’ associations, been a member of the gender advisory committee that advises the six-man body (comprising three government representatives and three FARC representatives), which prepares bills for the implementation of the peace accord and submits these to parliament. As a civil society and women’s organizations’ representative, she had previously already participated in the four-year peace talks held in Havana. In light of the massive threats facing her, she has been given personal protection.
In Mayerlis Angarita Robles and Jineth Bedoya Lima, the Anne Klein Women’s Award Jury is recognizing the courageous dedication of Colombian women for women’s rights in long-term armed conflict and their emancipatory contribution to the peace process in Colombia at the local and supra-regional levels. The peace process in Colombia remains fragile and its successful conclusion is far from secured. Mayerlis Angarita Robles and Jineth Bedoya Lima (together with many others) are doing everything possible to see this peace through to a successful conclusion for women. Both women are role models for all women human rights defenders across the globe. In awarding the Anne Klein Women’s Award to Mayerlis Angarita Robles and Jineth Bedoya Lima, the Jury is recognizing the extraordinary commitment of these women for human rights, freedom and peace.
The members of the Anne Klein Women’s Award Jury are:
- Barbara Unmüßig, President of the Heinrich-Böll-Stiftung, Jury Chair
- Renate Künast, member of the German Parliament, Alliance 90/The Greens
- Prof. Dr. Michaele Schreyer, Vice-President of the European Movement Germany network
- Jutta Wagner, lawyer, former President of the German Women Lawyers Association
- Thomas Herrendorf, interior designer
Berlin (Germany), 7 December 2017
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