Posted by: Paula Delgado-Kling | April 28, 2011

Operation Women to Women

Demobilized FARC women are broadcasting messages to their former sisters-in-arms encouraging them to leave behind their lives in the guerrilla. “There’s nothing better than to live a life in freedom,” says 17-year-old Yennifer Guerrero, speaking into a microphone in a military base in rural Colombia. She’s part of “Operation Women to Women” in which women are flown to military radio stations that transmit to isolated areas where there are often no other radio signals.

Yennifer continues, “Yes, it’s hard to arrive from the country to a city that you don’t know, it’s hard to integrate into city life, but one can do it, that’s what I’m proposing.” She first joined the FARC when she was 13 years old in part because it was the only life she’d known until then. Some of her family members were part of the group and the FARC came and took her one night.

The latest figures estimate there are still 8,000 armed FARC fighters, and thousands more unarmed collaborators. Women comprise about 30 percent of the FARC’s fighters.

While all efforts to get young people in the FARC to demobilize, and setting them up with a stipend to rebuild their lives, are to be applauded, most of these young people return to communities that spurred them to leave and join the FARC in the first place. Some come looking for the FARC because they suffer from domestic abuse in their own homes. They may come, simply, to get away from a step-father raping them. Others come because their older brother, or sister, is already in the FARC.

I wish there could be more focus on prevention programs.

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