Empowerment in Colombia

Eva Mape decided to set up her own tailoring business supported by Caritas. Credits: Caritas Colombia

Eva Mape decided to set up her own tailoring business supported by Caritas. Credits: Caritas Colombia

When Colombia’s war reached Eva Mape’s home town and her apartment block was blown up, she realised it was time to leave.

“We had no choice but to go. The only things we managed to save were some clothes that were outside,” says Ms Mape.

Her story echoes that of millions of Colombians who over the past 45 years have lived in terror of a war between the Government, rebels and paramilitaries.

After going to several different places, Ms Mape finally settled in Ibagué, central Colombia.

“We decided we were going to stay here… even if we had to live under plastic sheeting,” she says.

Caritas helped Ms Mape and others in her community organise themselves into groups so they could face their difficult situation together. This helped them believe they could take control of their lives. Caritas also offered the community livelihoods training.

“With all the training Caritas has provided we feel empowered, because before, many of us were used to having things done for us as displaced people,” said Ms Mape.

The women in the community decided to set up their own tailoring business. By working for themselves the women had more freedom to organise their lives and childcare. Caritas was interested in what the women were doing and offered its support to the business.

“We’re better prepared with the Caritas training we’ve received. We’re better informed about our human rights and about how we can live together and work for forgiveness and reconciliation,” she said.

Msgr Hector Fabio Henao, director of Caritas Colombia, emphasises how important support for these groups is – not only on a national level, but also from the international community.

“For these communities, international solidarity is very important. This means the solidarity of international groups which work towards justice, truth, reparation and the non-repetition of past atrocities.”

Ms Mape managed to regain control over her life and create some stability for her family. Her bad experiences haven’t destroyed her hope that one day things might change.

“I imagine Colombia full of peace and without violence and kidnapping and without so much poverty,” she says.


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