Despite physical limitations due to COVID-19, NDI is continuing to partner with local legislators, political parties and community leaders in Colombia to support full participation and inclusion of women and underrepresented communities. In honor of Pride Month -- a reminder that democracy only works when every voice counts -- we examine ways NDI’s programs bring democracy’s promise to LGBTI Colombians, Afro-Colombians, indigenous populations, people with disabilities, women and more.
Since 2000, NDI programming in Colombia has enhanced the political participation and skills of underrepresented sectors. In particular, recent programming has focused on communities disproportionately affected by ongoing conflict and the current pandemic. For example:
To support commitments made within the Open Government Partnership (OGP) national action plan to make government and legislatures in Colombia more accessible, NDI hosted virtual sessions with civil society groups representing people with disabilities and other underrepresented communities interested in legislative oversight. As part of a second session, NDI worked with the Chamber of Deputies’ Commission of Gender Equity and the National Federation of Local Council Members of Colombia (FENACON) to discuss creating gender-focused commissions in local legislatures.
NDI also hosted a virtual forum with the National Electoral Council (CNE) and women mayors and youth leaders to help build their capacity as they looked for inclusive responses to COVID-19. The Vice President of Colombia Marta Lucía Ramírez, the President of the CNE, the Executive Secretary of the Inter-American Commission of Women of the Organization of American States, 50 mayors and dozens of others shared best practices to address the increase in gender-based violence during the pandemic. They also discussed the intersection of gender and economic development plans, and gender and citizen participation.
NDI is also working with Colombia’s political parties to advance LGBTI and racial inclusion. Through roundtables with multiple parties, NDI facilitated conversations about the disparate impact and response to COVID-19 in these communities. Political party members presented strategies to better represent and advocate for Afro-Colombians, and increase their political participation. Political party members have also met to strategize on how to better respond to the challenges faced by Venezuelan migrants in Colombia during the pandemic.
NDI, the Observatory of the Political Participation of Women of Ecuador, Pro Women Institute Violeta Correa of Peru and the Leadership Center for Women of the Americas co-hosted a virtual forum with women legislators to talk about gender and COVID-19. Three panels with speakers from across Latin America addressed how the pandemic has affected human rights, the economy and gender-based violence trends in the region.
These initiatives, coupled with increased civil society oversight over local governments, provided underrepresented communities an avenue for political engagement during the pandemic. And they are just the beginning. Local legislatures are considering virtual formats and other “open parliament” principles to become more accessible to women; political parties are developing strategies to better engage and include Afro-Colombians, LGBTI and Venezuelan migrants; and Afro-Colombian groups are collaborating on political advocacy. These incremental steps will help encourage all Colombians to use their voice to make their government open and working for them.