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Gender-Transformative Peacebuilding in Colombia

Maria is a farmer, campaigns for the Inexperienced Get together in her area, and seeks to spend as a lot time as she will be able to together with her growing older mother and father, her grownup youngsters, her sister’s orphans, and the steadily rising variety of her grandchildren. Like Maria, Mario is a espresso farmer in Southern Colombia. He’s additionally a neighborhood politician combating for higher socio-economic integration of his area into the market. However Mario’s focus in life is to be an excellent father to his youngsters and help his spouse in realizing her dream to review legislation sometime. In a special and extra city nook of Colombia, Yana has completed her research and determined to cease working for the municipality and as a substitute create a home-based micro-enterprise, to have the ability to care for her young children herself. Single father Ludovico selected the same possibility years in the past: when he doesn’t practice the native soccer workforce as a part of a youth recruitment prevention initiative or is busy with voluntary work for the neighborhood council, he runs a bakery from his dwelling and is a dedicated guardian. To him, ‘peace begins within the dwelling, the place we educate our youngsters to respect, to have equitable relationships and convivencia [to live side by side peacefully].’

Yana, Maria, Ludovico and Mario (pseudonyms) are ex-combatants from completely different guerrilla and paramilitary teams. After leaving their armed teams, they’ve reinvented themselves as civilians and constructed their lives on the city and rural margins of various areas in Colombia. They share the expertise of state accompaniment as members of a so-called reintegration program. As such, they turned analysis members in my PhD undertaking titled “Combatants for peace, queering figures, or ‘just a few extra Colombians:’ co-constructions of ex-combatants’ citizen-subjectivities in on a regular basis reintegration practices”. For this undertaking, I draw on authentic empirical information, constructed primarily between 2017 and 2018, by advantage of feminist institutional ethnographic analysis in three areas and Colombia’s main cities. The information includes interviews and focus group discussions with over 300 folks concerned in reintegration, most of them ex-combatants and reintegration employees, in addition to drawings, statement fieldnotes, and background paperwork of the reintegration program.

Ex-combatant reintegration: messy, tension-loaded and extremely gendered

Reintegration is the development-oriented, social engineering aspect that enhances security-focused disarmament and demobilization in bigger Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration (DDR) applications. The myriad variations of DDR applications have change into integral components of peacebuilding across the globe. Bluntly simplified, such applications are a strong software for the formal state—the Colombian state, the ‘nation-state’, the Weberian ultimate—to regulate the harmful our bodies of its former adversaries and to normalize their minds. Ultimately, ex-combatants, who previously constituted a menace to state and human safety, change into subsumed into the large body of disempowered, de-politicized and socio-economically marginalized ‘common poor.’ Whereas the Colombian reintegration program purports to take action for peace, the peacebuilding contribution of ex-combatants themselves is hardly acknowledged as such—and neither are its gendered dimensions.

Lived experiences of reintegration are messier, extra advanced, and far more attention-grabbing than this clean image of top-down governance. To start out with, Reintegration is a questionable time period that doesn’t adequately replicate most real-life experiences of the ex-combatants whom I’ve labored with in Colombia. It insinuates a ‘going again’ into an imagined pre-war standing, which is rarely the case. Quite, my interlocutors discovered completely different lives after demobilizing, typically in geographically and socio-economically completely different areas. Moreover, Yana’s, Maria’s, Ludovico’s, or Mario’s reintegration experiences reveal how ex-combatants and street-level reintegration employees continually battle over, contest and negotiate in another way what it means to be ‘an excellent, first rate or regular citizen’ and what notions of ‘peace’ and ‘state’ underlie these assumptions. Within the contradiction-loaded areas of on a regular basis reintegration, ex-combatants emerge as in another way gendered and raced citizen-subjects, who stretch the boundaries of what’s thinkable, doable and fascinating inside the gendered social order of peace of their regional contexts, nevertheless with out all too violently transgressing these. Ex-combatants act as local-level peacebuilders who contribute to constructing peace and state in contextually located methods which might be typically completely different from these envisioned within the clean top-down image.

This text focuses on ex-combatants’ gender-transformative governance of the ‘mini-state’ of the household as a deeply political and gendered follow of ground-up peacebuilding that deserves extra analysis and coverage recognition. The Colombian reintegration program conceptually builds on a classy feminist technique. It understands gender equality as a human proper whose success is a precondition for reaching ‘peace.’ The reintegration program is to contribute to this gendered peacebuilding endeavor by empowering ex-combatant girls, portrayed as significantly weak, to enter the workforce and change into autonomous financial actors. This system affords ex-combatant males entry to non-sexist ‘new masculinities’ to encourage their help of ladies’s empowerment.

These expectations for a ‘cultural transformation in the direction of gender equality’ in reintegration enter into tensions with ex-combatants’ and reintegration employees’ realities. On the one hand, they conflict with prevalent gender norms within the persistently militarized and patriarchal areas that mark the gendered social order of peace whereby ex-combatants goal to combine themselves. However, gender equality could imply various things to policymakers in Bogotá than to ex-combatants, who typically describe their in-group socialization to me as ‘gender-equal.’ They measure this perceived ‘gender equality’ towards a masculinized normal and may solely specific it to me in masculine phrases, reminiscent of ‘doing the identical as males’ or ‘being like males’ (interviews with female and male ex-combatants, Colombia, 2017–2020). But, ex-combatant girls like Maria draw a novel feminine power from this expertise that empowers them in civilian life—even when their ‘man-like’ power is misinterpreted, and they’re stigmatized as butches (marimachos) and uncovered as ex-combatants of their communities or on the office. What’s thinkable, doable and fascinating to ex-combatants of various gender, age and ethnic teams is thus sure by the tensions between completely different gender regimes, their norms and expectations. Ex-combatants additional fastidiously stability their gendered reintegration practices towards social stigma and associated safety threats.

Gender-transformative governance of the ‘mini-state’ of the household: a manifestation of ground-up peace and statebuilding

The primary pillar of gendered reintegration practices, as they’re carried out in on a regular basis life, and the important thing web site of ground-up peace and statebuilding is the ‘mini-state’ of the household. Apparently, it has been largely ignored by the national-level technique and gender analyses of reintegration. Regardless of all variations, Yana’s, Maria’s, Ludovico’s and Mario’s gendered reintegration practices and peacebuilding priorities converge within the precedence they provide to their households and of their ambitions to control these in another way for peace. They outline their citizen-subjectivities, their political activism, their wishes and aspirations for civilian life in relation to the household: to them, ‘being an excellent, first rate, or regular citizen’ additionally means being exemplary mother and father and companions. Some select to prioritize parenting and household, making thereby a political declare to a basic proper, to an possibility their battle involvement had disadvantaged them of beforehand. Prioritizing the household may imply a deliberate selection in favor of home-based micro-businesses that reply to the native realities and permit them to mix childcare with a sustainable earnings.

Criticism towards regional options to the gendered tensions unfolding in reintegration abounds. Male ex-combatants like Ludovico could also be applauded as ‘new males’ who help gender equality and defy regional gender norms, as they prioritize care work and construct their financial autonomy as home-based, self-employed single fathers. However they might even be de-securitized, discursively emasculated and denied their political agency, as they re-focus their company from the general public to the home house. Yana negotiates the choice of creating a home-based ‘productive undertaking’ together with her reintegration employee and husband as a result of she chooses to prioritize motherhood and goals to control her household in another way: she needs to treatment the structural violence that she skilled herself and perceives as the foundation explanation for Colombia’s endless armed struggles.However Yana’s priorities of home-based entrepreneurship mixed with care work should not interpreted as manifestations of her political company or as gender-transformative practices. Neither is her assigned reintegration employee’s help of Yana’s selections legible to the formal state as a gender efficiency. As an alternative, located practices are both blamed for ‘not doing gender’ in any respect or ‘doing gender improper.’ The regional reintegration employee is seen as failing to grasp ‘what gender means’ and feminine ex-combatants who take contextually bounded however deliberate selections associated to motherhood, partnership and household are portrayed as pure victims, who’ve surrendered to the pressures of patriarchal normative expectations to them as girls.

Such black-or-white interpretations are themselves a type of violence to the regionally embedded options. Not acknowledging gender work by means of the household as gender work is a missed likelihood for the reintegration program to construct on regional experiences and information for present and future processes. Dismissing these practices ignores that they aren’t much less feminist or political simply because they’re additionally contextually and intersectionally located and negotiated towards a number of tensions, contradictions and adversities in on a regular basis reintegration. And it blinds out that ex-combatants contribute to peacebuilding by governing the ‘mini-state’ of their households in another way: Maria, Ludovico, Yana, Mario, and their reintegration employees co-construct peace in and thru the household in methods which might be gender-transformative, together with in the direction of the feminist peace envisioned on the nationwide degree.

Ultimately, such reluctance to acknowledge these ground-up contributions in the direction of an total feminist aim reveals tensions inside feminist initiatives that precede and transcend the Colombian reintegration experiences. Traditionally, probably the most troublesome struggles over energy in feminist actions have been fought over in bedrooms and personal properties. The ‘mini-state’ of the nuclear household has been related to heteronormative patriarchal fashions, constructed round marriage and the unit of the family. The household unit has additionally been the primary affective reference for citizenship because the eighteenth century. And, by reproducing and policing patriarchal heteronormativity, the household has been on the core of constructing and sustaining patriarchal states. The household can also be the house of the mundane, the non-public, the non-public, the seemingly non-political, the female: the house to which girls have been sure by the chains of patriarchy that feminist actions have struggled to beat so arduous. The pathway to girls’s liberation was by means of their integration to public life on the premise of gender equality, specifically by means of entry to adequately remunerated labor, a rationale mirrored within the feminist reintegration undertaking in search of girls’s financial empowerment. In Communion: The female search for love (2002), bell hooks describes how, in American radical feminist actions, this battle typically implied girls’s renunciation to motherhood and heterosexual partnerships. The household needed to be overcome for the sake of reaching gender equality.

Apparently, what appears hardest within the regional situations in Colombia—girls’s integration into public areas, politics and workforce—was the place progress was most achieved in Western feminist struggles within the second half of the 20th century; the state on the bigger scale was slowly turning into extra gender-balanced and gender-equal. On the contrary, the house that proved most proof against gender transformations was the household: even feminist ‘new males’ who supported their feminine friends’ struggles and equality in public, who would tackle an equal share in family chores and childcare, could be reluctant to surrender actual energy within the governance of the ‘mini-state’ of the household, and patriarchal girls would reproduce conventional partnership and household fashions, even when on the lookout for gender equality exterior the house. If the family/household is the muse of citizenship and statebuilding and on the similar time the core web site the place patriarchy is reproduced by each women and men, if it’s the key web site of gendered energy struggles and concurrently probably the most change-resistant smallest unit of the state, then its significance for gender-transformative statebuilding should not be disregarded. If additionally it is the core web site of experiences of violence that encourage Colombians to hitch armed teams, then ex-combatants’ contribution to constructing peace in another way by selecting to be caring and loving mother and father, companions and residents within the ‘mini-state’ of their households should not be underestimated.

Feminist students have lengthy acknowledged care as an element of peacebuilding. Developing their citizen-subjectivities in reintegration round their talents as caretakers, even when not explicitly as gendered beings, male ex-combatants like Mario or Ludovico make a refined declare to gendered peace and statebuilding from the ‘mini-state’ of the household up. Yana’s is each a private selection and a extremely political determination to interrupt a vicious cycle of structural and direct types of violence that she skilled in her household as a baby, within the ‘huge household’ of the FARC as a combatant, and all through her life within the expertise of state neglect and abuse. She is creating a greater ‘mini-state’ of the household, producing a small-scale social transformation to interrupt up violent patriarchal buildings from inside. And so does Maria, who campaigns for regional politics however identifies her true politics in being together with her prolonged household and stopping historical past from repeating itself: Maria is creating a special future for her youngsters and grandchildren. When ex-combatants select to be loving little kids, mother and father, grandparents, spouses, when they’re caretakers by selection and change into home-based entrepreneurs to be current with their family members, once they search to control their households in another way as a result of they need to treatment the structural violence that they understand as the foundation causes of battle and of the entanglement of their very own life histories with armed violence, they construct peace and state in another way, and in extremely gendered and deeply political methods, from the bottom up.

Importantly, this doesn’t imply {that a} inflexible heteronormative patriarchal mannequin is essentially imposed by means of these regional practices: the idea of the household in Colombian reintegration is a versatile one. The notion of the household embraces a number of and altering constellations which might be neither sure to heteronormativity nor to blood ties or legalized bonds like marriage. Patchwork constellations are extra the rule than the exception, specifically the place armed violence has impacted households by means of disappearances, deaths, or recruitment. The reintegration program acknowledges this and builds within the house for versatile, a number of and mutable household fashions (interview with reintegration designer, Bogotá, 2017). The ‘mini-state’ of the household as a core web site of peace and statebuilding bears the potential to be extra gender-transformative than solely leveling out gendered labor division amongst women and men. The historic expertise of feminist actions reveals that gender equality writ massive is determined by the transformations which might be hardest to attain—within the bed room, within the dwelling, in interpersonal relations and position division. Reintegration practices co-constructed between ex-combatants and their reintegration employees make these adjustments inside the boundaries of what’s thinkable, doable and fascinating. And this have to be acknowledged as a gendered follow and a ground-up contribution to peace and statebuilding.

My empirically-grounded argument makes a deeply feminist declare and it shouldn’t be misinterpret as the rest. I don’t expose the significance of the household because the smallest unit of peace and statebuilding to discard the necessity for bigger social and gendered transformations in Colombia. Positive lasting peace in Johan Galtung’s sense won’t be attainable with out bigger social and mental demilitarization and extra areas for and appreciation of non-hegemonic masculinities and femininities. Neither ought to it’s misunderstood in any method as shopping for in to the essentialist narrative that punishes ex-combatant girls with a double stigmatization—for being ex-combatants and for being women—and that seeks a treatment in relegating them again to the apron and the range. It isn’t to desecuritize or disempower male ex-combatants both, who carry out ‘new masculinities’ by selecting to be exemplary fathers and companions, in relation to a persistently militarized, patriarchal and hyper-masculine security state. Certainly not ought to my evaluation be learn as attributing the burden of reaching gender equality as a precondition for peace on the shoulders of particular person women and men (right here: ex-combatants) solely.

As an alternative, I merely goal to deliver the ‘mini-state’ of the household again into the dialogue as a core house the place peace and state are constructed from the bottom up, the place gender norms are re-negotiated and reworked—not essentially in keeping with a top-down technique, however in context-specific ways in which nonetheless contribute to its bigger targets. I need to make a plea for extra acknowledgment of the deeply political and gender-transformative practices of ground-up peace and statebuilding that happen within the ‘mini-state’ of the household. Lastly, my request to acknowledge the regional manifestations of gender work that ex-combatants and reintegration employees perform within the on a regular basis areas of reintegration shouldn’t be meant to prescribe how gender ought to be carried out in reintegration practices. On the contrary, it’s a declare in favor of context-sensitivity, of native types of gender experience and follow, and finally a reaffirmation of what bell hooks sees on the core of the feminist battle: that choice matters.

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