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Gender Transformative Peacebuilding in Colombia

Maria is a farmer, campaigns for the Green Party in her region, and seeks to spend as much time as she can with her aging parents, her adult children, her sister’s orphans, and the steadily growing number of her grandchildren. Like Maria, Mario is a coffee farmer in Southern Colombia.

He is also a local politician fighting for better socio-economic integration of his region into the market. But Mario’s focus in life is to be a good father to his children and support his wife in realizing her dream to study law someday. In a different and more urban corner of Colombia, Yana has finished her studies and decided to stop working for the municipality and instead create a home-based micro-enterprise, to be able to take care of her small children herself. Single father Ludovico chose a similar option years ago: when he does not train the local soccer team as part of a youth recruitment prevention initiative or is busy with voluntary work for the community council, he runs a bakery from his home and is a committed parent. To him, ‘peace starts in the home, where we teach our kids to respect, to have equitable relationships and convivencia [to live side by side peacefully].’ Yana, Maria, Ludovico and Mario (pseudonyms) are ex-combatants from different guerrilla and paramilitary groups. After leaving their armed groups, they have reinvented themselves as civilians and built their lives at the urban and rural margins of different regions in Colombia. They share the experience of state accompaniment as participants of a so-called reintegration program. As such, they became research participants in my PhD project titled “Combatants for peace, queering figures, or ‘just some more Colombians:’ co-constructions of ex-combatants’ citizen-subjectivities in everyday reintegration practices”. For this project, I draw on original empirical data, constructed mainly between 2017 and 2018, by virtue of feminist institutional ethnographic research in three regions and Colombia’s major cities. The data comprises interviews and focus group discussions with over 300 people involved in reintegration, most of them ex-combatants and reintegration workers, as well as drawings, observation fieldnotes, and background documents of the reintegration program.

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