Almost twenty years ago, Carlos Eduardo Jaramillo, a renowned Colombian historian and violentologist, insisted on the need to find the women hidden amidst the thick smoke of black gun-powder . Despite this warning, the recognition and reparation of female victims of the Colombian war are relatively new and remain far from being adequate. The Colombian government has postponed its obligation to implement gender-just and transformative reparations in order to face many other urgent issues, such as the provision of humanitarian assistance to the victims and the search for a peace agreement in the midst of continuing offensive military operations.
My hometown, Medellin (Colombia), is a city marked by violence. It’s a place of arrival for hundreds of internally displaced persons every month, the cradle of Colombian paramilitarism, and a witness to a growing wealthy class that shines against a background of economic and gender inequality. As a response to this context, I started to worry about human rights violations during my undergraduate studies in law. The law school I attended had a preference for banking and financial law, and for this reason it offered almost exclusively internship opportunities at companies and institutions in those fields. Nevertheless, my interest in understanding the effects of the Colombian war was by then so considerable, that I decided to apply on my own to several Human Rights NGOs.
I ultimately obtained an intern position at Corporación Región where, to my surprise, I was the only lawyer . I was in charge of giving Human Rights training workshops and of providing legal advice to victims of the armed conflict (mainly internally displaced persons). This first-hand experience with victims marked me profoundly, and left me with two simple, yet troubling conclusions that have kept my interest and curiosity since then: first, that the Colombian war survivors were mostly women and second, that everyday problems, such as poverty and gender inequality, tend to be exacerbated in the context of war. At Corporación Región I also learned to work alongside experts from a wide range of fields, which led me to recognize that although law is a powerful tool for transformation, it has certain limits. It became evident that the dynamics and consequences of the Colombian armed conflict could only be fully apprehended through a close collaboration between disciplines.
The experience at Corporación Región led to my undergraduate thesis in which I addressed dilemmas caused by the implementation of transitional justice policies in a context of deep inequalities. Since my internship, I have continued to work for Corporación Región as a legal advisor in matters of humanitarian assistance and memory policies, further developing my keen concern for the victims of armed conflicts. However, since my aspiration has always been to pursue a career in academia, after obtaining my undergraduate degree in Law I also applied for a position at my alma...