MEDELLIN, Colombia – A group of 32 former female combatants of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) opened a market in Medellin on Friday with products made by demobilized members of the former rebel group as part of a rehabilitation process after the signing of the peace agreement between the government and the guerrillas.
Honey from Anori mountain in Antioquia, coffee from the municipality of Buenos Aires in Cauca, red craft beer from Icononzo in Tolima, and Sacha Inchi oil from Arauca are some of the products sold in the “Peace-Building Women’s market” to give a boost to ventures that were born in the former Territorial Training and Reincorporation Spaces (ETCR).
“The mini-market is very important because it emerged with a community approach,” said Zulma Milena Giraldo, 38, who hoped that the project would open doors to a new life for the former female fighters.
The market was opened with the backing of the United Nations Verification Mission in Colombia, the United Nations Development Program and the Tejiendo Paz (Cotepaz) cooperative.
The ex-combatant described it as “progress” after the signing of the agreement despite “so many breaches by the state” and the pain of the killing of former guerrillas.
“It is complex because they have killed so many former members and social leaders who are fighting for change,” she said.
Giraldo, who was only 15 when she joined the guerrillas, said they were seeking to include the community in the project because “according to us, society never disassociated itself from us.”
The aspect was highlighted during the presentation by the regional head of Antioquia of the UN Verification Mission, Francesc Claret.
He said the market was a space to connect with the environment while also reflecting the fulfillment of the gender commitments contained in the peace agreement.
“It is an example of economic sustainability and reconciliation because it is in a neighborhood in the middle of the city of Medellin connecting with people,” Claret said.
He added that the productive project showed that when everyone worked together and had a clear goal, “great things can be done.”
According to the UN Verification Mission in Colombia, there are about 500 people in Medellin currently in the process of rehabilitation along with their families, which is why a new reincorporation area was formed, with women having a fundamental role.
Cultural programs were held and products made by women, most of them the heads of their families, were displayed during the presentation ceremony.
In remarks at the event, former guerrilla Dany Luz Gonzalez said space was opened in support of the signatories of peace and in “memory of the 245 reincorporated members who are not with us today.”
The products, manufactured by former FARC members, were also handed to representatives of victims’ organizations, who welcomed the initiative to create ties between women and open the doors of the city.
“This initiative shows that we can live together (...) and that we must cut off the chains of violence,” Luz Amparo Mejia, representative of the Mothers of La Candelaria movement, told EFE.