Violence, displacement, economic stagnation and a lack of viable political leadership have long plagued communities of Colombia’s Caribbean coast. Sembrandopaz accompanies these communities in creating their own solutions to these endemic problems. As the communities themselves have stated, “We deserve to enjoy the same socio-economic rights that any citizen would enjoy, like electricity, basic sanitation, clean water, health care, education, good quality houses, productive projects and special attention for seniors, adolescents and children.”
One of the ways that Sembrandopaz accompanies communities is by helping them realize their goals through participatory political action, often by identifying and creating spaces for broader community participation within the local political structure. Sembrandopaz also works with communities to discover what skills and tools they need to claim their rights under the law, what capacities already exist within the community, and how to build on those capacities. This often includes providing legal advice and training, capacity building, accompaniment of communities in collective actions, and leadership development.
LEGAL ADVICE AND TRAINING
Many Colombians do not have a high opinion of their judiciary system. They see it as slow, corrupt and prone to impunity. Furthermore, because of the complex legal system, the average citizen has difficulty navigating it on their own. In this case, Sembrandopaz gives legal advice to the leaders of the community and or the community at large on how to demand their rights given to them by law. For example, when the community of Mampujan started the process of reparations, they were first guided by Sembrandopaz on how to go about the whole process in a peaceful way since a violent process hadn’t worked in the past and would elicit a violent response. With this accompaniment, they were the first displaced Afro-Colombian community to receive collective reparations in the year 2012.
Currently, there are many other legal processes that Sembrandopaz is accompanying in different communities of the Montes De Maria which has been of a great help to most of them because not only do they get advice on legal matters but they also attain an understanding of their rights granted to them by law.
Over the past years, the work of Sembrandopaz has been to develop and strengthen the skills, instincts, abilities, processes and resources of the communities in the Montes De Maria. This has helped the community leaders to realize their strengths and abilities to do things or work that they never imagined they would do in their lives. For example, community members are taught how to facilitate spaces through the psycho-social project ran by Sembrandopaz. This way, community members have a positive impact on the community processes and become more effective in the community’s sustainable development.
ACCOMPANIMENT IN COMMUNITIES IN COLLECTIVE ACTION
Sembrandopaz accompanies communities in their peace building work helping them plan and solve issues that are not responded adequately by the government. For example, in 2013 Sembrandopaz assisted the 32 communities of the High Mountain Movement in the Montes De Maria in organizing a peaceful march aimed at pressuring the Governor’s office to address their claims.
In conclusion, there are many organizations that are working towards the enhancement of social/sustainable development, peace building and reconciliation in the region of the Montes De Maria and for the past 12 years, Sembrandopaz has continued, and will continue to accompany and create sustainable partnership and trust with these communities. Their hope is to see justice and peace to prevail in Colombia..