Laura Camila Barrios Sabogal applied to Khulumani to participate in its work on women’s empowerment as part of her commmitment to completing her Masters’ degree in Public Policy with a specialisation in Confict Studies and Management, at the Willy Brandt School of Public Policy at the University of Erfurt in Germany.
Laura’s home city is Bogota in Colombia and she shared with us that she had long wanted to spend time in South Africa which is considered as a successful experience of transitional justice compared to other countries that have gone through transitions from conflict to peace or from an authoritarian government to democracy. For Laura, South Africa was seen as a source of lessons for the peace process that is underway in her home country. She wanted to work from the ground up through a placement with the victims’ movement on the ground.
Laura spent a week in the National Contact Centre before moving to the Cape Town Metro where she developed relationships with Khulumani members at three sites, Khayelitsha, Langa and Nyanga, to work mainly with women who are are everywhere the most neglected populations in peace processes, but who are crucial in achieving a sustainable peace and democracy after conflict. In each of the groups, there were men who participated as allies of women in the struggles of women for end end to the violence that continues to threaten women’s lives everyday.
Laura explained that she discovered a common factor in all three townships, despite their different histories: the fact that people who live there, still struggle with a painful past, waiting for the reparations that might help them and their families to have better living conditions. She writes about why reparations are important when she explains that in a society that is trying to overcome its violent past, reparations or compensation are a very important, but usually neglected part of the transitional justice measures package, because they recognise directly the harm done to a person and they help to transform justice and responsibility into economic benefits and access to public services such as education and health for victims of atrocities. In the townships where she has been working, Laura corroborated this reality with her own eyes when she met victims who were still waiting for reparations. She explains that she found people trapped in poverty, living under very difficult conditions and waiting for their reparations not only in terms of money but also in terms of access to health and education.
Laura joined Khulumani in this struggle to empower and transform its members into active citizens, equipped to use reparations when they are finally delivered, to make a long-lasting impact on their lives and the lives of their family members, once justice is finally delivered on the basis of the equal treatment of all victims of the gross human rights violations of apartheid - the focus of the incomplete work of the short-lived Truth and Reconciliation Commission in South Africa.
Members of the Khulumani member group that met with Laura every Tuesday in Khayelitsha
As Laura departs at the end of September 2017, she leaves behind three groups of Khulumani members empowered to continue working together to shift the prevalence of patriarchal attitudes and practices that continue to disempower and limit women’s potential in the country. Thank you Laura for enriching our lives and building links of solidarity across our southern continents towards standing together as brave, strong, persistent and supportive activists, continuing the struggle to realise our beliefs, goals, and dreams’.
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