How a group of women affected by domestic violence and displaced by Colombia’s conflict united to build their own city
“We made little cardboard houses and put them in a big box, and you reached your hand in and pulled one out … ‘What number are you in? … Aiyee! you’re my neighbour!’” says Lubis proudly. “It was an amazing experience. From that moment forward, we thought as a collective.”
Lubis is the owner of one of the 98 life-size, concrete realisations of those little cardboard houses and one of the leaders of the Liga de Mujeres Desplazadas (League of Displaced Women), the Colombian women’s group. The organisation’s efforts have built a community known as the City of Women, to restore the right to housing to some of its most vulnerable members and their families.
Based in the northern region of Bolivar, the Liga is a grassroots group run by and for women affected by the conflict between the government, right-wing paramilitaries, crime syndicates and leftist armed rebel groups, such as Farc, a battle that is still ongoing despite a peace process which began in 2012. The six-decade long conflict in Colombia has displaced more than six million people, hitting indigenous and Afro-Colombian communities in particular.
While most of the combatants in this war’s armed factions are men, more than 50 percent of those forcibly displaced by it are women. It is estimated that half of these have experienced sexual violence: perpetrated systematically mainly by paramilitary groups, but also by state forces and rebel groups.