Beatriz Elena Rodríguez Rengifo – Colombia

She is one of the 1000 women proposed for the Nobel Peace Price 2005.

She says: “For some time, I have understood that there are more valuable things than money, such as respect, our rights, feeling proud when you are in front of your children. You cannot buy that with money.”

Beatriz Elena Rodríguez Rengifo - Colombia rogné redim 80p.jpg

Beatriz Elena Rodríguez Rengifo – Colombia

Asociación de Mujeres Productoras de Cárnicos (Association of Women Butchers/Meatpackers of Caquetá’ Asomupcar)

Beatriz Rodríguez was born in Dosquebradas, Risaralda, Colombia. She was a sex worker in a bar called California. Through a municipal civil servant, a client of that bar, she got to know the mayoress, Lucrecia Murcia, who supported her in the development of programs to bring upon improvements for her and her work mates. So Beatriz, along with her companions, formed a micro-company of meatpackers/butchers and other projects to benefit women in their position and allow them to be economically self-sufficient.

After Beatriz first sexual relations with her boyfriend, her mother took her to a brothel. After working as a prostitute for many years, she met the mayoress, Lucrecia Murcia, through a municipal civil servant who was a client of the bar where she worked. As a result, the mayor’s office created a program called Re-socialization of vulnerable groups. Part of its role was to inform sex workers about their rights.

There were people against it and the women were threatened, kidnapped and even murdered by illegal armed groups. They were accused of collaborating with the government and of spreading the HIV virus. Beatriz and the other women fought against those accusations, proving that they were false. They managed to get training courses sponsored by the mayor’s office and thanks to that they formed a micro company of meatpackers / butchers.

In spite of the social discrimination they have suffered, a number of institutions have supported them. Amongst them are the University of the Amazon that helped them with training courses and consultancy, and the Canadian Fund for Local Initiatives in Colombia that supported them economically. They grew bigger and were able to implement several other projects for women, such as the Villa Lucrecia housing project, or training courses and workshops on gender perspective with the collaboration of the Ecumenical Network of Women for Peace.

Colombia is going through a time of social conflict that has caused a huge portion of the population to be ‘displaced’. Prostitution is a common phenomenon in this society where women are reduced to a subordinate and marginal role, without opportunities to improve themselves. (Read all on 1000peacewomen 2005).

Colombia Peace Presence Update, October 2005

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