Demobilized Women Combatants: Lessons from Colombia


Giraldo, Saridalia. 2012. “Demobilized Women Combatants: Lessons from Colombia.” Paper presented at the Thinking Gender Conference, UCLA Center for the Study of Women, Los Angeles, February 3.

Author: Saridalia Giraldo


In Colombia, a country with one of the longest civil wars in the world, women combatants return to civil society in the midst of ongoing tension. In this transition, women suffer triple difficulties: the reaction of their home communities; hostility from armed illegal groups still engaged in conflict, and disregarding from the government itself. What accounts for these obstacles? First, in a patriarchal society such as Colombia, demobilized women face the denigration of their community which views women’s participation in armed conflict as an infringement on traditional female roles. Second, in the midst of continued conflict, demobilized women are also in danger of being rerecruited, tortured, killed or displaced from their home towns by their former peers in combat who perceive them as traitors, or by active criminal groups who consider them as enemies. Third, public policy designed to demobilize and reintegrate combatants gives little attention to women´s special needs as victims of gender violence. Recognizing that women and their needs remain invisible, this paper proposes that formal and informal post-conflict measures in Colombia must be gendersensitized in order to effectively reintegrate women and men into civilian life.

Keywords: women combatants, demobilization, reintegration, DDR, peace-building, Colombia, civil war, guerrillas, FARC, sexual violence

Topics: Armed Conflict, Civil Wars, Combatants, Female Combatants, DDR, Gender, Gender Roles, Gender-Based Violence, Peacebuilding, Post-Conflict, Post-Conflict Reconstruction, Sexual Violence, Violence, Weapons /Arms Regions: Americas, South America Countries: Colombia

Year: 2012

Unmaking Militarized Masculinity: Veterans and the Project of Military-to-Civilian Transition


Bulmer, Sarah, and Maya Eichler. 2017. “Unmaking Militarized Masculinity: Veterans and the Project of Military-to-Civilian Transition.” Critical Military Studies 3 (2): 161-81.

Authors: Sarah Bulmer, Maya Eichler


Feminist scholarship on war and militarization has typically focussed on the making of militarized masculinity. However, in this article, we shed light on the process of ‘unmaking’ militarized masculinity through the experiences of veterans transitioning from military to civilian life. We argue that in the twenty-first century, veterans’ successful reintegration into civilian society is integral to the legitimacy of armed force in Western polities and is therefore a central concern of policymakers, third-sector service providers, and the media. But militarized masculinity is not easily unmade. Veterans often struggle with their transition to civilian life and the negotiation of military and civilian gender norms. They may have an ambivalent relationship with the state and the military. Furthermore, militarized masculinity is embodied and experienced, and has a long and contradictory afterlife in veterans themselves. Attempts to unmake militarized masculinity in the figure of the veteran challenge some of the key concepts currently employed by feminist scholars of war and militarization. In practice, embodied veteran identities refuse a totalizing conception of what militarized masculinity might be, and demonstrate the limits of efforts to exceptionalize the military, as opposed to the civilian, aspects of veteran identity. In turn, the very liminality of this ‘unmaking’ troubles and undoes neat categorizations of military/civilian and their implied masculine/feminine gendering. We suggest that an excessive focus on the making of militarized masculinity has limited our capacity to engage with the dynamic, co-constitutive, and contradictory processes which shape veterans’ post-military lives.

Keywords: militarized masculinity, veterans, experience, gender, military-to-civilian transitions, militarization

Topics: Combatants, Male Combatants, DDR, Gender, Masculinity/ies, Gendered Discourses, Livelihoods, Militarized Livelihoods, Military Forces & Armed Groups, Militarization, Peacebuilding

Year: 2017

Demobilized Women in Colombia: Embodiment, Performativity and Social Reconciliation


Anctil Avoine, Priscyll, and Rachel Tillman. 2015. “Demobilized Women in Colombia: Embodiment, Performativity and Social Reconciliation.” In Female Combatants in Conflict and Peace, edited by Seema Shekhawat, 216–31. London: Palgrave Macmillan UK.

Authors: Priscyll Anctil Avoine, Rachel Tillman


Colombia has been divided by armed conflict for over half a century. While still confronting multiple forms of violence, since the beginning of the peace talks in 2012 public attention in Colombia has shifted to social reconciliation. In June 2014, Colombians re-elected Juan Manuel Santos as president, his campaign having made peace the centre of attention. The peace negotiations in Havana have been widely recognized as promising by the national and international community, and an agreement with the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia — Ejército del Pueblo (FARC-EP)1 is closer than ever. Women have been considerably marginalized in this peace process, however, especially those who played an active role in the armed conflict. These women experience a double alienation: not only has their participation in the perpetration of violence been largely invisible, but this failure to recognize their presence in the conflict means that they are also being overlooked in the peace-building process. Furthermore, their non-traditional performance of their own gender will make it very difficult for them as women to carve out a place in a post-conflict society. (Abstract from Springer)


"This chapter draws on Judith Butler’s work on gender performativity to articulate a framework of analysis for understanding the possible role of demobilized women in the Colombian peace process. We analyze from the perspective of embodied gender performativity a bibliography of narrative accounts of demobilized women in various regions of Colombia gathered by the Centro National de Memoria Histórica. We also conducted semi-structured interviews of key actors within the demobilization process, specifically with people who have had direct and sustained contact with women ex-combatants. Although these sources are not necessarily statistically representative of the wide range of women involved in combat in Colombia, they nonetheless allow us to build a preliminary panorama of the relationship between gender performativity and the lives of women combatants before, during and after the conflict" (Avoine & Tillman, 2015, p. 216-17). 

Topics: Armed Conflict, Combatants, Female Combatants, DDR, Gender, Women, Peace Processes Regions: Americas, South America Countries: Colombia

Year: 2015

Disarming, Demobilising and Reintegrating Whom? Accounting for Diversity Among Ex-Combatants in Colombian DDR


Schöb, Mia. 2016. “Disarming, Demobilising and Reintegrating Whom? Accounting for Diversity Among Ex-Combatants in Colombian DDR.” Peace, Conflict & Development: An Interdisciplinary Journal, no. 22, 117–78.

Author: Mia Schöb


This paper contributes to understanding how the Colombian Disarmament, Demobilisation and Reintegration (DDR) process accounts for a highly diverse ex-combatant population, whose composition will become even more diverse following the prospective peace agreement with the FARC. Analysing Colombian DDR discourse and practices through a gender and diversity-sensitive securitisation lens, I enquire how policymakers, academics, and practitioners understand diversity among ex-combatants, and how this understanding translates into reintegration practices. The analysis unpacks general de securitisation of all ex-combatants, however with different discursive logics along the lines of diversity. Revealing a nuanced strategy of male desecuritisation in Colombian DDR discourse, the findings contrast with previous studies on gender and DDR. At the same time, this work demonstrates the added value of a more holistic approach to diversity for understanding patterns of inclusion and exclusion in Colombian DDR. In a more policy-oriented discussion, it further points to inter and intra-institutional dynamics that undermine an effective implementation of existing programmatic approaches to gender and diversity in DDR.

Keywords: DDR, reintegration, armed groups, Colombia, Securitization, gender, diversity, discourse, analysis

Topics: Armed Conflict, Combatants, DDR, Feminisms, Gender, Gender Analysis Regions: Americas, South America Countries: Colombia

Year: 2016

Untapped Resources for Peace: A Comparative Study of Women’s Organizations of Guerrilla Ex-Combatants in Colombia and El Salvador


Dietrich Ortega, Luisa Maria. 2015. “Untapped Resources for Peace: A Comparative Study of Women’s Organizations of Guerrilla Ex-Combatants in Colombia and El Salvador.” In Female Combatants in Conflict and Peace, edited by Seema Shekhawat, 232–49. London: Palgrave Macmillan UK.

Author: Luisa Maria Dietrich Ortega


Over the past decades, the international community has increased efforts to enhance spaces of women’s meaningful participation in all spheres of conflict to post-conflict transition. The acknowledgement of women as essential actors for sustainable peace has prompted advocacy activities to include women in planning, implementing and monitoring of peace-building efforts. Despite significant advances in the field, the challenge remains to overcome stereotypical notions that associate women as passive bystanders or only as bearers of the violent consequences of armed conflicts, while ignoring the role women play as political actors. A step towards a more inclusive and holistic transition consists of exploring contributions the female actors in armed conflict can bring to peace-building. Female ex-combatants have played active political and military roles in insurgent organizations. Besides their first-hand experience in disarmament, demobilization and reintegration (DDR) programmes, some of them maintain connections with former insurgent groups and may influence processes from within. In that sense, organizations of female ex-combatants constitute an untapped resource for the promotion of gender-responsive transitions. (Abstract from Springer)

Topics: Armed Conflict, Combatants, Female Combatants, DDR, Gender, Women, Peacebuilding, Political Participation, Post-Conflict Regions: Americas, Central America, South America Countries: Colombia, El Salvador

Year: 2015

Reintegración y emprendimiento, análisis del programa de educación para el trabajo de la ACR para mujeres excombatientes


Matiz Cortés, Stefanie. 2016. “Reintegración y emprendimiento, análisis del programa de educación para el trabajo de la ACR para mujeres excombatientes.” Master’s Thesis, Pontificia Universidad Javeriana.

Author: Stefanie Matiz Cortés


Spanish abstract:

En esta investigación se hizo un análisis del programa de formación para el trabajo, que hace parte de la ruta de Reintegración Económica de la ACR, con el propósito de determinar si dicho programa lograba dar respuesta a las necesidades y expectativas sobre actividades productivas de las mujeres desmovilizadas de grupos armados. Para ello se realizó un estudio de tipo etnográfico – colaborativo que permitió comprender con las excombatientes, cómo y bajo qué condiciones se está desarrollando la dimensión productiva. Propone la profundización en el enfoque de género que tiene actualmente la Ruta de Reintegración con el fin de lograr que las exintegrantes de grupos armados logren reintegrarse en condiciones ajustadas a su realidad, sus intereses y sus posibilidades. En este sentido se rescata como elemento esencial las narrativas de las mujeres entrevistadas, ya que analizando sus necesidades, es indispensable que no se anule esa experiencia femenina dentro de la dinámica de la guerra y las transformaciones que experimenta en la sociedad. Por último se establece que es poco adecuado que los programas de emprendimiento sean considerados como un mecanismo de salida a la pobreza o una solución para impulsar el retorno de la población desmovilizada a la legalidad de forma autosostenible. Sencillamente porque el programa está planteado desde una perspectiva de emprendimiento por necesidad y no de emprendimiento por oportunidad, lo que va en contra de la naturaleza del emprendimiento y lleva la política al fracaso, pues lo que deberían ser empresas resultantes de aptitudes emprendedoras resultan siendo nada más que mecanismos simples de autoempleo (Abstract from original source​).

English abstract:

The purpose of this research was to analyze and look at the work of “the job training program”, as part of the economic reintegration path of the Colombian Agency for Reintegration, whose main objective was to determine if such program could give an answer to the needs and expectations of productive activities of armed group demobilized women .To do this, a collaborative-ethnographic study was conducted to better understand with the ex combats how and under what conditions productive dimensions have been developed. This research highlights the gender approach that the reintegration path currently has, in order to ensure that the former members of armed groups can reintegrate in fair conditions according to their reality, interests and possibilities. In this sense it is highlighted as an essential element the stories and narratives of interviewed women, as analyzing their needs is indispensable not to eliminate this feminine experience within the dynamics of the war and the transformations it faces in the society. Finally, it is stated that it is not appropriate that entrepreneurial programs can be considered as a mechanism to get out of the poverty trap or a solution to foster the comeback of demobilized population to legality in a self-sustainable way. Simply because the program is stated from the perspective of entrepreneurship due to necessities but entrepreneurship for opportunities, what goes against the nature of entrepreneurship and leads the initiative to failure, so what it should be seen as companies resulting in entrepreneurial attitudes it ends up as simple mechanisms of self employment (Translation from original source​).


Topics: Armed Conflict, Combatants, Female Combatants, Male Combatants, DDR Regions: Americas, South America Countries: Colombia

Year: 2016

Desafíos para la Reintegración: Enfoques de Género, Edad y Etnia


Centro Nacional de Memoria Histórica. 2014. “Desafíos para la Reintegración: Enfoques de Género, Edad y Etnia". Bogotá, Colombia: Imprenta Nacional.

Author: Centro Nacional de Memoria Histórica


Spanish Summary:
La Dirección de Acuerdos de la Verdad del Centro Nacional de Memoria Histórica (CNMH) preparó esta publicación a partir de rescatar trabajos y elaboraciones realizados inicialmente por parte de las áreas de Desmovilización, Desarme y Reintegración y de Género y Poblaciones Específicas de la Comisión Nacional de Reparación y Reconciliación (CNRR) referidos a los enfoques diferenciales necesarios de abordar con relación al género y las mujeres, las etnias con referencia a los pueblos indígenas y las comunidades afrodescendientes y la edad en lo relativo a las niñas, niños y adolescentes. 
En conformidad con el mandato legal y la misión institucional de dicha Comisión, tales esfuerzos se orientaron a garantizar los derechos de las víctimas de graves violaciones a los derechos humanos ocurridas en los contextos de violencia y conflicto armado registrados en Colombia durante las últimas décadas, a desarrollar iniciativas de reparación en beneficio de las víctimas y la sociedad y a conseguir garantías de no repetición de tales violaciones (Summary from original source​).

English Summary:

Challenges for Reintegration: Focus on Gender, Age, and Ethnicity 

The Direction of Truth Agreements of the National Center for Historical Memory (CNMH) prepared this publication from recovered works initially produced in the areas of DDR and Gender and Specific Populations of the National Commission for Reparation and Reconciliation (CNRR) referring to the differential focus necessary to address gender and women, ethnicities with reference to indigenous people and afro-descendant communities, and age with reference to girls, boys, and adolescents. 

In accordance with the legal mandate and institutional mission of said Commission, such efforts were oriented towards guaranteeing the rights of victims of serious human rights violations that occurred in contexts of violence and armed conflicts in Colombia over the last decades, to develop reparation initiatives benefitting the victims and wider society, and obtaining guarantees of non-repetition of such violations (Translation from original source​).

Topics: Armed Conflict, DDR, Gender, Women, Indigenous, Justice, Reparations, Military Forces & Armed Groups, Paramilitaries, Rights, Human Rights Regions: Americas, South America Countries: Colombia

Year: 2014

El papel de las organizaciones sociales en el proceso de reintegración de las mujeres excombatientes en la ciudad de Cali, en el marco de procesos de construcción de paz desde las comunidades, 2010-2014. Estudio de caso: Coomaco


Villareal Villa, Daniela. 2016. “El papel de las organizaciones sociales en el proceso de reintegración de las mujeres excombatientes en la ciudad de Cali, en el marco de procesos de construcción de paz desde las comunidades, 2010-2014. Estudio de caso: Coomaco.” Master’s Thesis, Universidad Colegio Mayor de Nuestra Señora del Rosario.

Author: Daniela Villareal Villa


Spanish Abstract:

Este trabajo pretende analizar el papel de las organizaciones sociales en los procesos de reintegración, en la configuración de escenarios dedicados al perdón y la resocialización de mujeres en proceso de reintegración en la ciudad de Cali, durante el periodo comprendido entre 2010-2014. Esta investigación puso en evidencia la falta de precisión en la ruta de reintegración de la particularidad de los procesos de reintegración de mujeres excombatientes de las Autodefensas Unidas de Colombia (AUC) han llevado a la discriminación de las mujeres durante el proceso. Dejando vacíos importantes que llenaron las organizaciones sociales con las comunidades. Para el desarrollo de este trabajo se realizaron entrevistas grupales a seis mujeres en proceso de reintegración, la líder de la Cooperativa Multiactiva de Madres Comunitarias, y ochenta y cinco sondeos de opinión realizados de manera aleatoria en las ciudades de Cali y Bogotá.

English Abstract:

The Role of Social Organizations in the Reintegration Process of Women Ex-combatants in the City of Cali, Within the Framework of Community-Based Peacebuilding Processes, 2010-2014. Coomaco Case Study. 

This paper analyzes the role of the social organizations in the reintegration process, the development of spaces dedicated to forgiveness and re-socialization of women in process of reintegration in the city of Cali during 2010-2014. This research highlighted the lack of precision on the reintegration program on the particularities of the reintegration processes of six former combatants women of the Autodefensas Unidas de Colombia (AUC) that have led to discrimination against women during the process. Leaving important gaps that social organizations have filled through the work with the communities. To provide some recommendations a group of interviews were conducted to six women in the reintegration process, to one officer of the Cooperativa Multiactiva de Madres Comunitarias was made, and eighty-five polls were done randomly in the cities of Cali and Bogota.

Keywords: Conflicto Armado, Mujeres, DDR, Coomaco, Organización Social, armed conflict, women, social organization

Topics: Armed Conflict, Combatants, Female Combatants, DDR, Gender, Women, Peacebuilding, Peace Processes Regions: Americas, South America Countries: Colombia

Year: 2016

Mujeres entre mafiosos y señores de la guerra: Impacto del proceso de desarme, desmovilización y reintegración en la vida y seguridad de las mujeres en comunidades en pugna. Caso Villavicencio


Barraza, Cecilia, y Luz Piedad Caicedo. 2007. Mujeres entre mafiosos y señores de la guerra: Impacto del proceso de desarme, desmovilización y reintegración en la vida y seguridad de las mujeres en comunidades en pugna. Caso Villavicencio. Bogotá, Colombia: Centro Regional de Derechos Humanos y Justicia de Género.

Authors: Cecilia Barraza, Luz Piedad Caicedo


English Summary:
"This study provides a comprehensive overview of the situation of women in local DDR contexts, with the aim to make progress in promoting women’s security. The aim of the research was to understand the impact of said processes, from the point of view of the municipality’s public officials, women, and the region’s key social actors.  This gives rise to a series of guidelines for the analysis which highlights the effects on the lives of the women of Villavicencio at the politico-organizational and socio-economic level, as well as at the level of sexual and reproductive rights, human security and violence against girls and women (VAGW)" (Barraza and Caicedo 2007, 9).
Spanish Summary:
"Este estudio ofrece una mirada integral a la situación de las mujeres en los contextos locales de desarme, desmovilización y reintegración, con miras a avanzar en la promoción de la seguridad humana de las mujeres. La investigación tuvo por objeto conocer el impacto de dichos procesos, desde la percepción de las y los funcionarios públicos del municipio, de las mujeres y de actores sociales claves de la región. De tal forma, se plantean una serie de lineamientos para el análisis que permiten evidenciar de forma específica los efectos sobre la vida de las mujeres de la ciudad de Villavicencio a nivel político-organizativo, socio-económico, de derechos sexuales y reproductivos, de seguridad humana y violencia contra las mujeres y niñas" (Barraza & Caicedo, 2007, 9).

Topics: Armed Conflict, DDR, Gender, Women, Gender-Based Violence, Security, Human Security Regions: Americas, South America Countries: Colombia

Year: 2007

The Reintegration of Former Combatants in Colombia: Addressing Violent Masculinities in a Fragile Context


Flisi, Isabella. 2016. “The Reintegration of Former Combatants in Colombia: Addressing Violent Masculinities in a Fragile Context.” Gender & Development 24 (3): 391–407. 

Author: Isabella Flisi


This article focuses on peace-building processes in fragile societies traumatised by violence and conflict. It argues that disarmament, demobilisation, and reintegration (DDR) programmes largely overlook the relationship between violent ‘militarised’ male identities and behaviour, and risks to women’s security. DDR programmes need to work with men to support them to evolve non-violent ways of ‘being a man’. The article draws on research from Colombia to illustrate its argument and show the negative consequences of combatants’ reintegration on women’s lives in that context. It suggests key steps to challenge wartime masculinities that should be included in DDR and peace-building programmes, and considers wider implications for development and humanitarian work in fragile contexts.

Keywords: masculinities, violence against women, reintegration, gender, post-conflict, disarmament, demobilisation, DDR, Colombia

Topics: Armed Conflict, Combatants, Male Combatants, DDR, Development, Gender, Women, Masculinity/ies, Military Forces & Armed Groups, Militarization, Peacebuilding, Security, Violence Regions: Americas, South America Countries: Colombia

Year: 2016


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