Disbelief. Shock. Sorrow. The feelings evoked by the photograph below, especially today; today is International Day to End Violence Against Women.
Afro-Colombian women are some of the most vulnerable of Colombia’s population. According to the Afro-descendent Women Human Rights Defenders Project:
- Illiteracy is higher for Afro-Colombian women than white/ mestizo women (16.90% and 11.70% respectively).
- Their life-expectancy is 11 years less than that of a white or mestizo women.
- The Afro-descendent population endures more hunger (14.3%) than the white/mestizo population (6.11%)
- Only 13.5% of Afro-Colombians have access to higher education.
The municipality of Tumaco, in southwestern Colombia, has roughly 200,000 residents, 89 percent Afro-Colombian. Slightly over half of the municipality’s population lives in the city of Tumaco, Colombia’s second-largest Pacific port. Human Rights Watch reported that FARC and paramilitary successor group members in Tumaco have attempted to make young women and teenage girls their girlfriends or sexual partners through threats and intimidation, according to relatives of the young women and a community leader. Some families have sent their daughters away from areas where these groups have a strong presence to protect them from potential sexual exploitation or abuse.
Afro-Colombians make up about 26 percent of Colombia’s population and represent at least 30 percent of the total number of internally-displaced persons. Many leave the countryside and their ancestral lands for the cities, which they presume to be safe. Many are vocal community activists whom paramilitary groups consider guerrillas and therefore their enemies. Many advocate against the recruitment of their children into armed groups.
Displaced women have special needs. They must take care of their children, becoming both mother and father, while living with the trauma of having lost their husbands. In the cities, they face discrimination when looking for a job. They often do not have the right skills needed for city jobs. The help offered to them by the state does not consider that women need special items such as diapers and feminine hygiene products.