On the 22nd of March 2023, the EU-LAT Network organized and hosted a round-table event at the European Parliament called “Her Rights, Her Voice. Women’s Rights Defenders in Latin America – the case of Buenaventura, Colombia”. In cooperation with MEP María Soraya Rodríguez Ramos (Renew) and PBI Colombia, the Network invited ProtectDefenders.eu, la Fundación Nydia Erika Bautista and three young women’s rights defenders from the department of Buenaventura to highlight and discuss the current situation of women’s rights and their defenders in the region, from an intersectional perspective of young women from afro-descendant and indigenous communities.

In recent years Latin American countries have experienced a progressive closure of civic space, causing differential impacts on women and women’s rights defenders in the region. In Latin America, women are now facing a reality of deep-rooted socio-economic inequality and multidimensional threats to their physical integrity, as well as to their right to defend it.

The case of Buenaventura is paradigmatic of this violent reality. With the city’s seaport as Colombia’s key commercial center, the District of Buenaventura in the department of Valle del Cauca has become the site of a confluence of economic inequality, socio-political crisis and, above all, armed conflict. In this context, women, youth and girls are identified as the group that is most adversely impacted by the persistent violence. Between January and September 2022 alone, 419 crimes against sexual freedom and integrity, 119 cases of domestic violence, 49 cases of sexual crimes against women and 6 cases of femicide have been officially registered. In this volatile context, those who try to resist and protect the fundamental rights of women, youth and children are facing threats, assaults, extortion, stigmatisation, kidnapping or murder. This reality worsens in the contexts of indigenous and Afro-descendant communities.

The defence of democracy and human rights involves giving a voice to these young, indigenous and afro-descendant activists and to recognise their work as women’s rights defenders in Latin America. To do so, the role of the EU as a whole, and more specifically that of the Parliament and the European Commission, is key. In view of the future EU-CELAC Summit, it has become, now more than ever, imperative to promote international awareness, protection and support, and to improve the tools and mechanisms that the EU provides for women’s rights defenders in contexts of high levels of gender-based violence from an intersectional approach.

For more information, please read the report on the situation of women, youth and children in Buenaventura, Colombia, by Agir Ensemble Pour Les Droits Humains.

Event program:

Moderated by: Fay Vastenhoud (EU-LAT-Network).

14.30h-14.40h: Welcoming words and introduction to the event. Short poem by defender from Buenaventura.

14.40h-14.50h: Intervention by MEP María Soraya Rodríguez (RENEW), member of the Committee on Women’s Rights and Gender Equality (FEMM) and the Delegation to the Euro-Latin American Parliamentary Assembly, founder of the platform Mujeres Al Frente.

14.50h-15.05h: Presentation by young women’s rights defenders on the situation of defenders of the rights of women and girls in Buenaventura, Colombia, from an afro-descendant and indigenous perspective.

15.05h-15.15h: Online intervention by women’s rights defender Yanette Bautista (Fundación Nidya Erika Bautista – FNEB) representing victims of enforced disappearances in Buenaventura, Colombia (PBI Colombia).

15.15h-15.25h: Intervention by Helena Szczodry, coordinator for temporary relocation and emergency grants at ProtectDefenders.eu.

15.25h-15.55h: Question round, debate.

15.55h-16.00h: Closing remarks by MEP María Soraya Rodríguez Ramos (RENEW).