There are few images more tragic than women marching through the Colombian streets. Last month, hundreds of thousands of people across the country took to the streets in the same way — planning to march and demand change. Their protests were set against the backdrop of two months of escalating violence against indigenous people — who are currently in the middle of one of the bloodiest periods since the Cold War.
In mid-February, near the city of Cochabamba, a protest staged by the indigenous People of Xalapa (Sipatar) against the drastic changes to the form of their government led to a police clash with the activists. Three days later, 50 indigenous people were killed by the military. Five more died that week.
At least 5,000 indigenous protesters — including many women — have been injured as a result of the conflict. After the killings, it seemed that the government had lost control. Days after the first deaths, Colombia’s leader-of-the-moment, Juan Manuel Santos, finally acknowledged the significance of the violence — but suggested that any discussion of the violence was irresponsible.
Women from the Peoples of the Barbuateca community carry a 10-month-old girl following a protest for social and environmental justice in Bahia Antioquia on April 9, 2015. (Photograph by Renan Budes)
Native and Indian women are bearing the brunt of the violence against the indigenous. According to a representative of a press desk operated by the Marta Colima Group, indigenous woman have seen a 10 percent increase in homicides in recent months. “This phenomenon is happening with such speed that there is not the chance to be ready,” said one women’s rights advocate. “So we are not likely to win it this way. We are going to have to fight.”
Photo: Renan Budes
To track the violence being committed against indigenous people in Colombia, @copenhagen has started a volunteer network of individuals around the world helping to document the situation. Read more about it here.