Virgelina Chará – Colombia

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

She says: “Peace cannot be reached with bullets because then so many lives are lost. You cannot buy it or sell it with blood. It is a process that must be built from within the family”.

She says also: “They have threatened me with death” … and: “I worked from the age of six helping my family” … and: “When you are helping people in the community, you realize what is going on”.

Virgelina Chará - Colombia rogne r80p.jpg.

Virgelina Chará – Colombia

She works for the Cooperativa Multiactiva Interétnica Nuevo Horizonte Limitada (Inter-ethnical Multi-active Cooperative).

Virgelina Chará is an African Colombian, born half a century ago in the Valle del Cauca, in Colombia.

She has been threatened with death five times and cannot remember how many times she has been displaced from her home. She has been arrested, kidnapped, beaten and persecuted. She has seven children, three grandchildren and she never rests “because of my desire to live and to live with under dignified conditions”, says Virgelina Chará when talking about her life, which has lasted for half a century, punctuated by displacements and persecutions.

She was the first of four children born in Cauca, in Colombia. She was Afro-Colombian and poor, raised by her mother and grandmother. From ages 12 to 18, she worked as a maid in Calí. She managed to go to school in the evenings and graduated from the primary level at age 24.

She returned to Cauca, where she worked with miners and peasants who had been forced to sell their lands. And what was going on was that she was threatened with death.

She escaped with her five children and began a journey of living “underground” and fleeing persecution. She joined the revolutionary movement ‘19th of April’ until the peace agreement was signed in 1990. The Movement 19th of April, known as M-19, was a Colombian insurgent group that used guerrilla tactics and was demobilized in 1990 with the signing of the peace agreement.

Many of her companions have been massacred and tortured and her children, who now number seven, have been threatened.

In 2002, she arrived in Bogotá, as always escaping from death. There she works as a legal adviser to the Inter-ethnical Multi-active Cooperative, a cooperative that fights for human rights and gives training courses in maintenance and nutrition. She says that she is on a list the government has of people that may be killed, but that does not stop her from taking risks. “It is because of my desire to live under dignified conditions”.

Since the 60s, Colombia has been living through an internal war involving the army, guerrilla groups and Para-military groups. The civilian population, which has suffered deaths and displacement, has had to flee from the conflict.

In Bogotá, there are around one million displaced women. (1000peacewomen).

… The catalyst for the 1,000 Women initiative was the fact that the Nobel Peace Prize has only gone to 12 women since it was first awarded in 1901, while millions of women work for peace around the world.

The 12 women laureates were Wangari Maathai from Kenya, Shirin Ebadi from Iran, Jody Williams, Emily Greene Balch and Jane Addams from the United States, Rigoberta Menchú from Guatemala, Aung San Suu Kyi from Burma, Mother Teresa, an Albanian missionary in India, Alva Myrdal from Sweden, Betty Williams and Mairead Corrigan from Northern Ireland, and Bertha Sophie Felicita von Suttner from Austria.

The 1,000 nominees include 144 women from 19 Latin American countries. The 10 Colombian jury members selected mainly women who are well-known in their regions, communities and fields, although they are not necessarily high-profile figures in this country where leftist guerrillas are fighting the armed forces and extreme right-wing paramilitary militias.

The nominees continue working for a political solution to the social and armed conflict and advocate the presence of women and women’s organisations in potential peace negotiations, said the jury, made up of professionals, government employees and social leaders. (full text).

links:

Colombia Peace Presence Update, October 2005;

women and life on earth;

a newsletter of voces de mujer, 2005;

configuraciones, 104 pages;

LA SOLUCIÓN POLÍTICA Y LA DEMOCRACIA SON EL CAMINO, 15 pages;

Tierra y desplazamientos en Colombia / Terra i desplacaments a Colombia, 77 pages;

umbrales, 307 pages;

terremotos en el tropico humedo, 256 pages;

experiencias significativas, para poblaciones vulnerables, 164 pages;

Gerencia social en America Latina, 311 pages.

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