Published on Upside Down World.
Alejandra Miller Restrepo, Cauca regional coordinator of Ruta Pacifica de las Mujeres, talks about this thirteen-year-old movement of Colombian women against violence. The group is famous for groundbreaking direct actions joining campesino, black, indigenous and urban women in massive mobilizations or “rutas,” often held in locations controlled by armed groups who target women.
I spoke with Cauca regional coordinator Miller Restrepo in December 2008, a month after Ruta’s most recent mobilization, as the Colombian “false positives” scandal of the army killing civilians and claiming them to be guerrillas continued to generate headlines, along with widespread speculation about changes to come from the new Obama Administration. Her comments on how Ruta has opened space for women in Colombian society reinforced my concern that too many activists in the US and Colombia are setting aside what they know intuitively about the pace of change – that it comes from below, through the steady work of movements like Ruta that can take advantage of moments like this one to push the government leftward only by building on years of grassroots organizing.
Ruta continued that steady work with national demonstrations on February 1st, 2009 in cities across the country, to support the presence of women activists in Colombians for Peace negotiating the release of hostages held by the FARC, and demanding a negotiated end to the armed conflict, which the government opposes, refusing even to recognize the existence of legitimate armed groups.
When and how did you get involved with Ruta?
I heard about Ruta when I arrived in Popayán to attend the University of Cauca in 1999, and got involved then. Since 2002 I’ve been the regional coordinator.
How would you describe la Ruta?
We’re a movement of women against war, founded in 1996. We’re feminist, pacifist and anti-militarist.
We have two fundamental objectives: 1. To make visible the effects of war on the bodies of women. On our bodies because women’s bodies are sites of conflict in war, and it’s historically a particularly grave type of violence. And we must denounce the violence of war. 2. Insist on a negotiated outcome to the war. The militarization of territories creates more war and pain, the only way to end it all is through political negotiation.
Read the rest of this entry ?