UNISONActive is an unofficial blog produced by UNISON activists for UNISON activists. Bringing news, briefings and events from a progressive left perspective.

Tuesday, 9 August 2011

The price of progress - story of Triana's women's group

A delegation from UNISON’s Northern region is currently visiting Colombia. This is the second in a series of reports sent into UNISONActive by the delegation: The Afro-Colombian community of Triana has suffered extreme violence for no other reason than its location. Located on the main route from the Port of Buenaventura, it sits on the gateway to Colombia.

The road is being widened to allow more traffic and goods to be to be transported. For many years the area has also had the presence of left-wing guerrillas.

Both of these factors meant that the civilisation population has been targeted by paramilitaries allied to the government pursuing a scorched earth strategy in order to displace local communities, taking away the insurgents’ social base and also facilitating the road expansion.

The communities in the area must be displaced to make way for this ‘progress’. Paramilitaries unleashed terror upon the communities in 2000 with a series of massacres in the area, which saw many men in the community killed, or ‘disappeared’. The violence caused mass displacement from the area as the majority of Triana’s population fled, as did that of other villages in the area.

In 2005, driven by conditions of poverty in urban shack settlements, the communities began to move back to the area, despite the continuing presence of paramilitaries in the area. A brave group of women began to organise, and formed Triana’s victims’ group in order to fight for justice for their loved ones’ horrendous deaths.

As key priority for the group is to preserve the historical record of the massacre and ensure that what happened is never forgotten, and to this end support for the construction of a memorial gallery is very important. A plot of land has been obtained and the construction is underway. This memorial will act as a reminder of what the community has suffered, and also be a focus to keep the campaign alive.

The persecution of the community continues, and now the women who have come together to campaign for justice for the deaths of their loved ones, as well as to defend their communities, are being targeted. There has been an increase in violent attacks against them, with women being killed, and ‘disappeared’, and also them being singled out as ‘guerrillas’. Their livelihoods are under threat, as small businesses are closing due to being relocated to make way for the road expansion, and therefore work opportunities are reduced.

This community needs urgent international support both in terms of supporting them by telling their story, and also by supporting their organising work, and financially to help them be able to get some economic stability, such as being able to learn new skills, and grow food to sustain themselves and their families.

The women of Triana’s courage and determination for justice, and to win respect and dignity for themselves should be an inspiration to us all. They urgently need international support and solidarity and the publicising of their plight is a first step in that process.