Safe spaces provide a place to heal, connect, and start again

Elbidelia shares her weaving crafts that are for sale. Photo: OCHA

Colombia | 2023 | CERF

Colombia, Chocó. “I came to the safe space because of violence. Another woman recommended I come,” says Elbidelia. “I spoke with other women who had experienced what I did.”

The humanitarian situation in Colombia has deteriorated, with about 7.7 million people needing humanitarian assistance in 2023. 

Colombia still grapples with overlapping humanitarian challenges, particularly in areas where State presence and capacity are limited. These arise from the expanding geographical impact of internal armed conflict, its intensification in some areas, and ongoing climate-related disasters. High inflation and economic problems continue.

Chocó is one of the provinces worst affected by the armed conflict and indigenous communities like Elbidelia’s bear the brunt. As displacement throws the usual social order into turmoil, many women face an increased risk of gender-based violence – but lack the resources to access help.

With funding from the Central Emergency Response Fund, UNFPA is supporting women-friendly spaces that offer holistic support to mitigate the risk of, and respond to, gender-based violence.

Elbidelia explains, “What happens is that with indigenous women it is very difficult to talk about the topic.” She found that sharing her experience and hearing those of other women helped, and together they were able to find ways to change people’s ways of thinking and acting.

The safe spaces provide confidential support for managing cases of gender-based violence (GBV) and offering psychosocial care. They guide adolescents and women through discussions, workshops, and training sessions.

The space also provides livelihoods training to help women start afresh and find new avenues for earning money and empowerment through that.

“When I arrived, I didn’t know how to weave. I didn’t know how to do anything, but some of the other women taught me. From there I started weaving, and I’m now selling what I make to support my kids,” says Elbidelia.

Adapted from original stories from the Colombia Humanitarian Fund and CERF.

For more information on the CERF allocation in Colombia.