Kolumbien: Yolanda Becerra Vega

We have been able to be free, to build our lives and to organize ourselves in the midst of an institutionalization committed to killing.

— Yolanda Becerra Vega

Yolanda Becerra is as old as the civil war that devastates Colombia and has destroyed the life of Barrancabermeja, the oil city, where she was born. It has a strategic position and is the subject of a dispute between the armed forces. From there, Yolanda leads the Popular Feminine Organization, a social and political movement that brings together women who refuse to give their families up to death. They resist, with great courage, to the constant threat of crime and terror brought about by the paramilitary campaigns.

Yolanda Becerra was born in 1959, in Barrancabermeja, Colombia, in the midst of the armed conflict between the guerrilla and military and paramilitary forces. She began as an adolescent with teaching people to read and write in the community parish churches, inspired by the Theology of Liberation. In 1980, she entered the Popular Feminine Organization (OFP), created originally by the Church, for women who plied the sex trade and who had come to the region to entertain the men working in the oil trade. The war transformed the organization into a political and spiritual refuge for mothers who had lost their families in the conflict. In 1988, she was elected director of the OFP. Year after year she has been mobilizing efforts against the anguish spread by the paramilitary forces: “They came, murdered a woman and inscribed on her body the words ‘Mother of a guerrilla.’ In 2000, we began with the campaign ‘Let's react to fear with love.’ We discovered that fear could be transformed into organization, solidarity and resistance, and we discovered that it no longer had the power to paralyze us.” Since then, Yolanda and the activists of the OFP have received death threats and some of its leaders have been murdered. “When we buried them, we felt that we gained the strength to resist.” International Peace Brigades support the activity of the OFP and are at Yolanda's side 24 hours a day. “We have been libertarians in the midst of an institutionalization committed to killing. We have been able to be free and to build our lives amidst the anguish and the bullets. When a woman comes to us with her pain, it is as if we have known her for a long time.”

Popular Feminine Organization (OFP)