The Council of Evangelical Churches of Colombia (CEDECOL) is a partner of Global Ministries which, among many other things, offers relief and hope to the victims of Colombia's situation of violence and upheaval. The CEDECOL Women's Network is an interdenominational network of women working throughout Colombia as advocates for those affected by the violence. They empower women, especially those with a strong Christian identity, to accept the challenge of working to secure dignity for all. They especially work with women and their families who have been displaced because of the civil war in Colombia and with women's groups in poor communities.
The Women’s Network offers programs and initiatives to women who face social and economic hardship, as well as those living in the midst of domestic abuse and conflict. The Women’s Network provides women throughout the country with elements that allow them to provide for themselves and their families, as well as to promote and provide opportunities for other women in sustainable efforts of income-generation The Women’s Network also actively advocates for peace, justice, and equality, three important values often absent in Colombian society.
The CEDECOL Women’s Network has worked hard to reach out to women in the regions of most need in Colombia. The Network has worked with women primarily through local church ministries and has achieved a degree of recognition and trust among the communities of women and the churches in many areas. Dialogue and fellowship have grown, allowing for more women to hear about the Network and take advantage of the training and support the ministry provides.
The Network works closely with other groups formed and directed by women of the CEDECOL churches and in society as a whole who also seek to improve the quality of life for women in peril. In partnership, these programs work to provide psycho-emotional aid to women through workshops and training in trauma management for self-motivated recovery. In addition, they provide training in non-violence and peaceful conflict resolution, as women seek to develop healthy self-esteem.
The CEDECOL Women’s Network also organizes socio-economic initiatives such as production and management training, arts and crafts, and support for micro-credit projects. They provide support to women participating in micro-credit projects, as well as helping with marketing the products and crafts that the women produce.
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One of the main purposes of the Women’s Network is to become a self-sustaining regional network through income-generation projects that allow them to grow as a network and, in turn, be able to provide support and assistance to women who wish to participate in these experiences. Through loans for small productive units, the Women’s Network has supported a widow who was displaced by violence when her husband was killed. She and her three sons currently live in a small town in the province of Huila and attends a local evangelical church. She received a loan for her small business which is a bakery and the selling of tamales. Initially the loan was given for the purchase of ingredients and utensils for the making and selling of tamales. In the second stage of the project, she expanded to a bakery at home by purchasing a gas stove , cylinder, trays, and supplies.
Similar micro-credit projects were undertaken, including a group bakery project in another region. This project began with training the participants in the preparation and processing of making bread. The initial startup funds were approximately $20.00 per person. They used a craft oven to start the baking project. Through this cooperative agreement enough funds were raised that the women were about to buy a gas oven. Several women who are heads of their household along with their children are working in the bakery. More funds are requested to sustain this project.
Another project involved the raising of chickens. The original request was for 12 chickens, but 20 were ultimately obtained. Of these 20 chickens, two died and 18 were sold. Money from the cooperative paid for both the chicken coops and other materials. Sales covered almost 100 percent of the invested. More funds are requested to enlarge to project and to buy 50 chickens.
Yet another project is suggested for a family wishing to plant strawberries. A woman, mother of a two year old, and her husband are displaced victims of violence. They have very few resources, but live where they have good soil for planting and raising strawberries. Funds are needed to help begin this project.
These are only a few of the projects coordinated by the CEDECOL Women’s Network. Other microcredit projects include the raising of sheep, turkeys, ducks, and pigs. Amid this ongoing process challenges remain in motivating women affected by the conflict to work on continuing on with they have achieved so far. The Women’s Network needs to further strengthen the work of awareness and incentives, as well as extend and strengthen what has been done with utmost professionalism and perseverance.
In the next phase, the Women’s Network hopes to help communities in an area with many displaced people with new initiatives such as: a) assisting three female victims of the violence with small plots of land to raise sesame seeds; b) supporting a project of two women to establish fast-food outlets; and facilitating two women to begin in the breeding and sale of pigs.
Global Ministries requests funds to assist the CEDECOL Women’s Network in their work with women affected by violence in Colombia so that they may strengthen existing projects and begin new ones.