Social Issues

Colombian women fight for decent housing

By Laura de Grado Alonso

Maria La Baja, Colombia, Apr 22 (EFE).- A floor of something other than mud, two rooms, a bathroom, and a kitchen, is the dream of Elvira, one of the displaced women in this Caribbean coastal town who have been fighting since 2007 for proper homes to replace the ones they fled during Colombia’s armed conflict.

In 2019, the Administrative Court in Bolivar province ruled that the women of Maria La Baja, just 70 km (44 mi) from the resort city of Cartagena, have a collective right to decent housing and a healthy environment.

Taking place at the house next door to Elvira’s is a meeting of Asomontes, an association of female heads of household who came together here between 2000 and 2007 after being driven from their homes by right-wing paramilitaries.

They are among the more than 7.7 million victims of forced displacement between 1985 and 2019, according to Colombia’s Truth Commission, many of them farmers who lost not only their homes but their livelihoods.

The Asomontes families, who occupy a site that was once a settlement of escaped slaves, reside mainly in rudimentary dwellings with mud floors and roofs that leak when it rains.

They also lack electricity and running water, despite living alongside Cienaga de Maria La Baja, one of Colombia’s largest lakes.

The poor conditions are taking a toll on residents’ physical and emotional wellbeing, Asomontes’ legal representative, Myriam Alvis, tells EFE, adding that the overcrowding is driving the young women to marry at younger and younger ages “to get out of there.”

“I have pain in the hands and the legs from being cold so much due to the state of the home,” resident Ainelda says, pointing to the unpaved streets that turn to mud in the rainy season.

In 2007, the women of Asomontes began organizing to press for access to health care, better housing, and community spaces. Authorities promised to launch a development project, but it never materialized.

They turned to the courts, eventually winning the 2019 judgment, yet that decision has not led to action.

“We have a verdict in favor of the community and they have not complied, so we ask ourselves ‘what steps should we take?’,” Alvis says of what she describes as the “re-victimization” of the women of Maria La Baja.

And violence remains a daily threat, as the paramilitaries have evolved into the Clan del Golfo, Colombia’s most powerful criminal organization, which holds sway over the country’s Caribbean coast.

EFE ldg/dr

Related Articles

Back to top button