Three Days in Cali
CoDev Executive Director, Barbara Wood, is travelling as one of the coordinators of the 2013 delegation of the Frontlines Initiative – a joint project of four Canadian public sector unions working together in solidarity with Colombia since 2004 – and shares some reflections from three days in Cali.
With the union of water workers in rural Valle de Cauca, SINTRACUAVALLE. SINTRACUAVALLE has already fought off privatization of the water system five times. Each time they have worked hard to involve the community in protesting the privatization plans. 80% of the water is provided to poor communities that receive it at a reduced rate as part of the public company’s social responsibility.
We were greeted with music and children singing songs about water. We heard from workers and community members committed to keeping water in public hands and keeping it accessible and sustainable.
In the company of community leaders and representatives from indigenous, Afro-Colombian and peasant communities and human rights defenders. NOMADESC has worked for more than 10 years with these communities and organizations to empower them to understand their rights, to tell their stories and to seek justice. The stories they tell are painful: loved ones murdered, death threats, exile.
Under a giant tree in the back patio of NOMADESC’s office, we shared sancocho and coffee, stories and tears.
With two small communities near the Pacific Coast of Colombia that work with NOMADESC. In La Delfina the Kiwe Nasa indigenous people talked to us quietly about the attacks and threats they have suffered at the hands of the Colombian army, the paramilitaries and the guerrilla. Indigenous guards patrol their communities and work to protect the environment as well as the people, their batons a sign of authority and respect.
A young woman, mother to two children was threatened and then killed here in mid-February. The community is now living together in the community house and school to try to protect one another. They have resisted leaving their land for decades. The strength of their resistance is humbling.
Further west we meet 18 women from a small Afro-Colombian community. Each of these women suffered the death of a family member and have come together to restore the historical memory and to demand justice for these deaths. The women spoke through tears, recounting the crimes, remembering their loved ones. Their dignity and courage is overwhelming.