July 04, 2007
Written by Phyllis Richards

On August 4, 2005, I had an opportunity to meet with Carmen Acosta, President and Regional Coordinator of the Women's Network in the Cartagena, Colombia says Elizabeth Carrasquillo. It was wonderful to finally meet the woman I had corresponded with over the last few months.

At the meeting I presented CEDECOL with the Global Ministries' Award of Affirmation that was prepared for General Synod (United Church of Christ) and General Assembly (Christian Church, Disciples of Christ) in 2005. The award was for the Women's Network's work on human rights and social action, for the organization's function in a Christian context through ecumenical relations and church participation.

Carmen was very pleased to receive the award. She said that it also meant a great deal to all the women who worked hard at reaching out to the many displaced and abused women in Colombia.

The Network has already begun offering training workshops in many regions in Colombia. The goal is to equip women through education, economic development, human rights, development and training of skills for self-sustenance and physical safety. According to the U.S. Office on Colombia, one in three IDP (Internally Displaced Person) families is headed by a woman. Over 53% of IDPs are women, and more than 70% are either women or children. Notably, women carry the primary responsibility for attending to family member's health, educational and psychological needs. The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights of the Organization on American States notes that women "are in a difficult situation in Colombia, as they suffer particularly serious effects of the violence that affect the entire country" and considers that "violence against women in Colombia persists and is worsening."

According to Carmen, women face sexism, violence and poverty every day. The Women's Network is trying to give a vision of faith so that the children have hope for a better future. Not only does the Network provide training for economic sustenance, they also work with women in developing their self-esteem, dealing with domestic abuse, and support peaceful organization in the midst of violence and threat. Many women find the Network as a personal haven, having no other source of support.

I also had an opportunity to meet Lucille Nino, Regional Coordinator for the Women's Network. She too was very pleased that the Network had won the Award of Affirmation, and wanted to share her greetings and gratitude to the ICWF women who support with prayers and gifts the Women's Network.

This report was written by Elizabeth Carrasquillo, the Program Associate for the Latin America and Caribbean Office of Global Ministries. This program, and others are supported by the One Great hour of Sharing offering.

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Phyllis Y. Richards
Program Associate, Global Sharing of Resources
700 Prospect Ave.
Cleveland, OH 44115