OP ED - War is gendered; solutions to it must be gender-sensitive

                  “When joining the FARC, women like me felt empowered by showing to our male peers that we were capable of being harsh fighters, of thinking strategically and of working as agents, rather than helpers”.


 

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It was in a spring sunny day in Bogota, Colombia, in a rather small waiting room, filled with a pleasant coffee aroma that I met former FARC combatant Rosa for the first time. I recall feeling quite self-conscious of my role as a young man, with limited field-work experience, inmersed in such a complex context, where five decades of guerrilla war has left devastating consequeces on its social fabric. And yet, a 45 minutes conversation with Rosa was a touching experience that felt at the same time personal and revealing.

 

Today, looking at the notebook in which I scrawled my thoughts and notes, I remember vividly how Rosa walked me through her experience as a former combatant in the guerrilla movement. How the social experiences and gender dynamics within the movement functioned and were exploited to enhance its operational goals. But what was particularly striking in my conversation with her was how recruitment tactics were deeply rooted in gender identities and gender narratives – for both male and female combatants.

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