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Colombia: Women contribute to peace through the promotion of health
10 April 2017

The group of women "Health Promoters" has been formed in 2015 and has the participation of 25 women in situations of forced displacement because of the Colombian armed conflict. (Jesuit Refugee Service - Colombia)
These women have achieved a high level of empowerment and influence not only within their community but also in nearby communities where they have promoted good health practices.

Cúcuta, Norte de Santander, 10 April 2017 - In order to make the work experiences that have emerged from the continuous work of accompanying, serving and advocating for people in a situation of forced displacement or refuge better known, the peace initiatives led by women and accompanied by the national teams belonging to the Jesuit Refugee Service in the region of Latin America and the Caribbean have been systematised.

In Colombia, on the border with Venezuela, we have been working with a group of women "Health Promoters", residents of the settlements La Conquista and Guadalupe, located on the ring road of the city of Cúcuta. This group has been working since 2015, and has the participation of 25 women in a situation of forced displacement due to the armed conflict in Colombia. 

This initiative was born in response to the identification of community needs, and given the limited possibilities of accessing health services, they decided to train in public health and community care to implement strategies for disease prevention and health promotion at the family and community levels. 

Among the most prominent actions are the health brigades and the identification of families with high levels of vulnerability in order to provide them with water storage tanks, water purification filters, and to conduct coprological analysis and the deworming of children.

This experience with women peacebuilders is supported by the JRS Colombia team in the Norte de Santander region through Local Integration for the resolution of the problems in the sector, mainly those related to health alerts and daily customs harmful to the health of the population residing there. 

In this sense, JRS begins a process of training women leaders from these communities in areas related to the strengthening of community capacities for risk management and preventive health care in everyday life. In this way, they can be self-managed within families and the community in response to the needs identified in the sector.

The main objectives proposed for completion by the peace initiative of the "Health Promoters" have been: 

  • Community awareness through popular education strategies faced with the importance of acquiring daily habits for health care.
  • The development of skills for community health promotion and risk management through care and self-care actions.  
  • The creation of community spaces for the transfer of knowledge that provides practical tools to families for health care and risk management.  

  • Participation in the development of health prevention and promotion actions and risk management at the local level, such as health brigades and the provision of water storage tanks and filters. 
  • The consolidation of individual and collective strategies that strengthen local capacities for peacebuilding, especially those directed towards health care and risk management for the families of La Conquista community.

During these years, and thanks to these actions, this group of women leaders has strengthened their community´s capacities for risk management, health promotion and disease prevention as a part of actions aimed at improving the quality of life and guaranteeing the right to stay on the land in order to build peace and reconciliation in La Conquista community.

Oscar Calderón Barragán, coordinator of the JRS Colombia team in the Norte de Santander region, points out that “the contribution to peace is the ability to create the spaces and opportunities for the host community and the migrant population arriving in these territories to build together the vision of its territory and to be the protagonists of their own change”. 

Similarly, Marlen López, Local Integration advisor in Cúcuta, highlights the importance of the role of women in these processes: “women have a great capacity for organization and a strong interest in the development of the community, and the contribution that women health promoters have made has not only transformed the community, but has also generated change at the personal and family levels in that they have transformed their own reality and their histories of violence starting with an increase in their self-esteem and a recognition of their own capacity for leadership. Likewise, they have created a very strong network that has allowed them to be a protective environment for themselves and at the same time to be recognized by the community in the construction of peace”. 

It is important to emphasise that community development resulting from this initiative emphasises the collective above the individual despite each of their experiences under the Colombian armed conflict. These women have achieved a high level of empowerment and influence not only within their community but also in nearby communities where they have promoted good health practices.

“As a woman and a representative leader of women in the community, being part of this process has given me more strength, and I have emerged, I am now a visible person, and I feel that I am an example for other women to follow and that we recognise the importance of organising ourselves because we united women are able to make our homes and children prosper. We contribute a lot, and we are the centre of the community.”

Health Promoter in the La Conquista and Guadalupe Community

Jesuit Refugee Service - Colombia. Norte Santander Team
Jesuit Refugee Service – Latin America and the Caribbean

Press Contact Information
Martina Bezzini