CEDECOL Women’s Network
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.
Please see related story at: Lidia and Marcela
|Update: February 2014|
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.
|Update: November 2016|
The Women’s Network of the CEDECOL Peace Commission has been laying a strong foundation of support for its goal of uniting Colombian women in their work for peace, justice, and dignity. In May 2016, participants from four cities (Montería, Ibagué, Bogota and Cali) convened to lay important groundwork for future programs and networking opportunities. Participants developed strategies to identify and partner with organizations that can target and serve areas of priority in their communities.
Riding the momentum from this meeting, CEDECOL had a national gathering in Bogota, bringing together three women from each participating city to generate interest in the project and develop an overall theme together. This meeting included two days of workshops on the issue of violence against women, UN Security Council Resolution 1325 (acknowledging and strengthening the role of women in peacebuilding), and the current political unrest in Colombia. Workshop leaders included Betty Ruth Lozano of Unibautista University and Rosa Emilia Salamanca of the Mencoldes Foundation.
Prior to the national meeting in August, CEDECOL representatives from participating cities meet with at least ten local women to generate interest in the project. This also helped the representatives at the national meeting discuss various priorities that women have identified in their local communities.
In terms of local work, the project is focusing on women in four communities: Toribio, Mondomo, El Carmelo, and soon Miranda. Approximately 60 women of the Nasa and Misak indigenous communities in these territories have attended workshops on peace and human rights. In Cali, CEDECOL is building alliances with the ACR (Colombian Agency for Reintegration) and Unibautista University to work with women who are seeking reintegration in society after having served in rebel armed groups. This work is focused on reconciliation and meaningful peacebuilding as the armed conflict in Colombia moves toward an end.
The meeting in August and the local work that has begun as a result of this meeting is setting the tone for future work and will broaden the reach of the network. This work is also contributing to new opportunities for further peacebuilding and reconciliation at a critical time for Colombia.
|Update: May 2017|
The Council of Evangelical Churches of Colombia (CEDECOL)’s Women’s Network has taken great initiatives towards furthering the cause of equality, justice, and peace for disadvantaged women across Colombia, a country shaken by armed conflict as well as domestic violence. Through outreach to women within congregations, the Women’s Network aims to spread an ecclesial focus on women’s awareness of gender issues and empower them to address the financial, social, and familial challenges which shape their daily lives.
In 2016, the Women’s Network trained approximately 100 women in various conferences and workshops. The present year’s meetings and training sessions are focusing primarily on sensitization, developing support groups for female victims of violence, and providing humanitarian aid. Ongoing efforts include teaching women to read the Bible with a gender perspective, building up systems of entrepreneurship which encourage women to use recycled materials in their sellable crafts, and discussing and analyzing the peace agreements between the Colombian government and rebel groups.
Throughout 2017 emphasis will also be given to supporting women of indigenous ethnic backgrounds, particularly in promoting the production and selling of traditional handicrafts. Such products serve to both express local culture to others and bring in much needed income for the women’s families. To implement this plan, the Women’s Network intends to establish a collective fund for the crafters so that they may obtain raw materials for their crafting and spaces in which to sell their wares.
Challenges encountered in the work of the Women’s Network include coordinating the involvement of women from different regions and ethnic groups of Colombia in addition to finding allies for the development of the project in new locations. However, these difficulties do not stand in the way of participants’ enthusiasm for the project. An indigenous woman of the Toribio Cauca community, Elcira, shared her testimony about the project’s influence on herself and her peers. Calling the project “a blessing for her life,” she remarked that previously, church-led training was often only offered to pastors, not laywomen, but the Women’s Network has changed that. It has also shown women that “God does not want us to be violated in any way. We must be peacemakers in our community. We can organize and do many things for us and for our community. That’s why I think this project is very necessary.” Speaking on the personal impact she has felt, Elcira stated, “I have grown a lot. I am very happy to learn and to teach the women of my community. I am happy!”
Gifts for this project have helped to support transportation costs for attendees of regional and national conferences and venue bookings for meetings.
|Update: December 2019|
CEDECOL Women’s Network takes time each year to evaluate its current work and plan and set goals for the future. The Network focused their work on the four local communities its members are centered in Cali, Popayán, Ibagué and Monteria.
Each local group of women holds monthly and bi-monthly meetings to plan activities for that local community. Each community uses a methodology of reading the Bible from the perspective of and lives of women in order to advocate for the end of violence against women and lift up the experience of women who have overcome violence. These local groups use this framework to promote and train women in peacebuilding, mediation, and conflict transformation.
These local communities of women publish press releases, organize marches, and participate in public hearings to reject all types of violence against women. They highlight important dates for women, and promote international and national reports on the quality of life for women. Members of these local groups accompany women who are victims of violence to organizations who can assist them.
To support the local communities of the CEDECOL Women’s Network, the national organizers of the Network promote their work to other communities in the Network as well as other church and organizational partners. The national leaders convene regional gatherings of leaders to encourage each other in their local work, as well as to develop strategies for networking and overcoming challenges. At these events, local leaders are able to share with CEDECOL and with each other about their work and the situation in their local communities.
The CEDECOL Women’s Network hopes to continue to build on this work, to continue in the strengthening of these local community groups. The Network hopes to encourage groups to work together. The Women’s Network plans to develop an introductory presentation on reading the Bible from the perspective of and the lives of women, which will be used in local congregations to explore and discuss issues affecting women in each local community.
CEDECOL Women’s Network shares the stories of the following women who are members of the Network:
Juanita, a local community facilitator in Cali, said: the CEDECOL Women’s Network has been a great success this year in the formation of a network for peace in Cali. With a focus in different areas of training both on peace and personal and social restoration, the Network has shown a commitment to strengthening families, communities and churches. In addition, in my local community I see the growth of the women around me.
Yoliana, a survivor of violence who was accompanied by the CEDECOL Women’s Network said: The Network has meant and still means to me spiritual, social, emotional growth and the realization of goals, which are taking color, form and content through each meeting toward the accompaniment of families in crisis, allowing dignity for women who are violated in our country.
Sonia, a local community facilitator in Monteria, said: For me the Women’s Network has been a space of convergence where women survivors of sexual violence, and other types of violence, have felt included. It is meaningful to have a space just for them, where they can express their feelings. For the women of the project, the space gives them spiritual, social and economic growth.
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