From Confinement to Empowerment: The Wounaan Overcome Armed Conflict in Chocó

The community of Nueva Piraza, belonging to the Wounaan indigenous people, lives to the south of the Chocó Department, on the banks of the San Juan River. This area has been historically affected by the armed conflict and has experienced an upsurge in violence since 2020. For years, the members of this community have had to go through difficult times due to the incursion of armed groups into their territory, which has led them to confine themselves and, on several occasions, has prevented them from moving freely around this beautiful part of the Colombian Pacific region.

As a result of this confinement, the community has had to experience adverse situations such as a lack of food, which has negatively impacted their food security because they have not been able to travel for work and obtain the food they need for survival. Moreover, due to a lack of knowledge, the community did not know how to react when besieged by armed groups, leaving them disoriented and not knowing what to do, weakening them as a community.

Thanks to the support provided by PADF, the community of Nueva Piraza has managed to improve, and its inhabitants have grown less afraid to regain their collective confidence and self-esteem. In addition, thanks to the program, the members of the community have learned to prepare themselves for adverse situations that may arise in the future since their primary motivation is to be able to resist and persist in their territories to preserve their culture and ancestral knowledge.

Before the arrival of PADF, we did not know how to protect ourselves during armed confrontations. We believed that the only solution to survive was to leave our territory. Now we know how to protect ourselves to remain in our home.”

With this support, which also focuses on organizational strengthening, the members of the community recognize the work that has been done since they have been able to resume their endeavors thanks to the various activities within the program. These include workshops, psychosocial support, and learning about ethnic decrees. Moreover, this has fostered the organizational strengthening of the community so that they have been able to consolidate their support networks, their government, the Indigenous Guard (an organization that protects and spreads ancestral culture and the exercise of their rights), and the creation of women’s committees for the prevention of gender-based violence. Finally, this has allowed them to regain their sense of security and self-esteem.

Published on August 9, 2023.

Soraya Osorio

Country Director – Colombia


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