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Inspiring Thursday: Yolanda Becerra Vega

“We believe that peace can be much more real if the participation of women as political actors is part of the equation…Not just in terms of being represented in different scenarios, but more importantly, in the daily construction of proposals from the grassroots, from the regions, so that a real peace is possible in this country.”

Born in Barrancabermeja, Colombia in 1959, Yolanda Becerra Vega is a human rights defender and peace activist. Yolanda has worked with grassroots organizations in Colombia to promote peace in the context of war and various armed actors, with a specific focus on helping Colombian women and children who have been marginalized and suffered throughout the conflict in the country. Yolanda is a leader in the women’s rights movement, inspiring the expression “Social Movement of Women against the War and for Peace”, which originates from the grassroots social movements in the Magdalena Medio region of Colombia.

Throughout her time as an activist, Yolanda has faced a great deal of political persecution, gender-based discrimination and sexual violence, including death threats, yet she has continued her work. She has often had to go about her work in the presence of armed actors in places where there is a considerable gap between the rich and poor, and serious human rights violations occur frequently. Yolanda has persevered nonetheless, as she is dedicated to the defense of territory, dignified life and peacebuilding within her country. Yolanda has undertaken marches, rallies and street theater, among other acts to protest the violence and injustices within her country. Her organization helps women to secure economic assistance and training, access to education, health services, legal aid for those who have suffered human rights violations and services for young people.

Yolanda is currently the National Director of Organización Femenina Popular (OFP) in Colombia and has been leading the initiatives Museum of Memory and Human Rights for Women, along with developing a Women’s Agenda for Territory and Peace. As part of OFP, Yolanda has played a key role in both local and national processes related to applying victims’ rights to gain truth, justice and reparations. OFP is dedicated to the defense of life and inherent human rights, including women’s, and members strive to work towards the development of women as civil and political actors.

Yolanda has been recognized by various groups and organizations for her dedication to promoting peace and human rights. Past awards include the Swedish award “Per Anger” in 2007 the “Ginetta Sagan” award from Amnesty International in 2009. This award specifically honors women who dedicate themselves to ending human rights injustice against women and children, and includes $10,000 to help Yolanda with her ongoing work in Colombia. She was also nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in 2005.

Yolanda’s contribution to the field of human rights, specifically women’s human rights, is both impressive and important. She has worked to improve conditions and fight for justice for those affected by the conflict in Colombia, even faced with threats of injury and death to herself and her family, and despite the fact that several of her colleagues have been assassinated and/or “disappeared”. Her commitment to attaining peace, equity and justice is something which has had an impact not only within Colombia, but also globally.

Yolanda offers her vision of an improved and equitable society, saying: “I think that in a machista society and in one with such big inequality gaps, women’s organizations are necessary for the reconstruction and construction of a model with equality in terms of equity, justice and rights…I don’t think we have to build societies only for women, but neither do we have to build societies only for men, which is what has always been built. A society for men and women would create another State model that would allow us to achieve a tiny but very difficult thing – happiness.”

 

Written by Corinne Schoch, WAVE Intern

Sources

Amnesty International. “Amnesty International to Present 2009 Ginetta Sagan Award to Colombian Woman Who Helps Raise Women’s Voices Against Armed Conflict.” February 24, 2009. https://www.amnestyusa.org/files/images/sagan/yolandabvegapressrelease.pdf.

Comisión Intereclesial de Justicia y Paz. “Amenazas contra Gloria Amparo Suárez y Yolanda Becerra Vega, integrantes de la Organización Femenina Popular.” February 13, 2013. https://www.justiciaypazcolombia.com/amenazas-contra-gloria-amparo-suarez-y-yolanda-becerra-vega-integrantes-de-la-organizacion-femenina-popular/

Embajada de Suecia. “Yolanda Becerra Vega.” https://www.swedenabroad.se/es/embajada/colombia-bogot%C3%A1/actualidad/wikigap/mujeres-constructoras-de-paz-en-colombia/yolanda-becerra/

Heroínas. “Yolanda Becerra, heroína de Colombia.” February 10, 2011. http://www.heroinas.net/2011/02/yolanda-becerra-heroina-de-colombia.html

Kairos. “Yolanda Becerra Vega.” 2018. https://www.kairoscanada.org/people/yolanda-becerra-vega

Paz con mujeres. “Yolanda Becerra: una valiente apuesta por la vida.” June 4, 2013. https://humanas.org.co/pazconmujeres/7__9_Yolanda-Becerra–una-valiente-apuesta-por-la-vida.html

PBI Colombia. “‘No Justice? No Peace!’ The Women Absent from Colombia’s Peace Talks.” June 5, 2013. https://pbicolombia.org/2013/05/06/no-justice-no-peace-the-women-absent-from-colombias-peace-talks/

Revolvy. “Yolanda Becerra“. https://www.revolvy.com/page/Yolanda-Becerra