top of page

Charting a Path of Empowerment and Peace: the experience of the Itinerant Ethnic School in Nariño

Seventy-five years ago, a momentous milestone in human history took place in Paris, France. The United Nations General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights on December 10, 1948. In the drafting and adoption of this Declaration, the contribution of women leaders, who advocated equality and freedom without discrimination, was essential. This document, composed of a preamble and 30 articles, establishes basic principles of fundamental rights and freedoms that all human beings should enjoy, constituting a common standard to which all nations and peoples should aspire. Since then, we have commemorated International Human Rights Day every year.

The path towards the full realization of human rights has not been free of challenges, being frequently violated in scenarios of armed conflict and reminding us that the defense of rights is a permanent task that requires multiple efforts for the maintenance of peace.

In this scenario, civil society organizations constitute a mobilizing force in the demand for the guarantee and protection of rights. In the national context, the Consultancy for Human Rights and Displacement - CODHES has played an important role in documenting and advocating for the rights of internally displaced persons in Colombia due to the armed conflict, violence and other human rights violations. In recent years, CODHES has made significant progress in advocacy, network building and dialogue with the State.


Promoting the guarantee of victims' human rights is imperative for peace. The action of women and girls offers enormous potential for transformative change. That is why the project "Participation, dialogue and advocacy of women/girls victims of forced displacement and confinement to formulate proposals and monitor public policies for care and protection" implemented by CODHES with the support of UN Women, the Women, Peace and Humanitarian Action Fund - WPHF and the United Nations Multi-Donor Fund for Peace, focused its actions on strengthening leadership and empowerment capacities of more than 100 women and girls victims of the armed conflict in the Telembí and Piedemonte Costero Nariñense Subregion.

This project was carried out in the municipalities of Barbacoas, Magüí Payán, Ricaurte and Roberto Payán, reaffirming the role of Afro-descendant and indigenous women as peace builders, through the implementation of the Itinerant Ethnic School of Participation, Protection and Advocacy.

With a total of eight modules, the Itinerant Ethnic School addressed training in human rights, gender, regulations and care routes for victims of the conflict, ethnic rights, prevention and protection, women and peace, new masculinities, organizational strengthening and social control. In a cross-cutting manner, women and young people were trained in tools for storytelling from the perspective of communicating solutions.

During its implementation, the School promoted the exchange of knowledge and regional integration with the active participation of women leaders and human rights defenders and members of the Municipal Youth Councils of the aforementioned municipalities and ensured the multiplication of knowledge through a training strategy for trainers.


For Mariela Mesa, leader of the Tumaco District and trainer of the School, "Knowing and appropriating rights not only builds peace, it builds development and wellbeing. It also builds associativity as we women unite to work as a network.

The School also offered the Open Class on Ethnic Rights, a series of five video classes with the participation of recognized leaders and experts on the subject. This training initiative of the Itinerant Ethnic School, developed virtually, provided a digital tool for anyone interested to learn about national and international regulations on the rights of Indigenous and Afro-descendant Peoples for their appropriation within the organizational processes and enforceability in the implementation of policies and projects.


"Where there is a woman who is trained in her leadership, there is the possibility that a People can survive physically and culturally. These scenarios promote that a People can understand and strengthen itself in its own and non-ethnic aspects to promote the fundamental principles enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights," said Omaira Cárdenas, leader of the Kankuamo Indigenous People, with determination.


The defense of human rights is a calling for each person, a joint task for their effective enjoyment. In the words of Eleanor Roosevelt, "Where, after all, do human rights begin? In small places, close to home. These places, such as our personal environment, neighborhood, school or workplace, are crucial for seeking equality, justice and dignity without discrimination.

Investing in local initiatives led by women is fundamental for the promotion and defense of human rights. Following this approach, in addition to leadership training for women and girls, local initiatives of the Fundación Mujeres Resilientes Constructoras de Paz in Barbacoas and the Cabildo Mayor Awá de Ricaurte - CAMAWARI were supported in the areas of self-protection, activism for the prevention of gender-based violence, healing and emotional recovery.

This project also contributed to the creation of the First Departmental Prevention Plan with emphasis on the protection of women in Nariño, based on the participatory construction of proposals from the voices of leaders of the Subregional Network of Early Warnings of the Pacific and Coastal Piedemonte Nariño and participants of the Itinerant Ethnic School. "In every scenario, from the desk, from the territory, we women defenders promote rights. Let equity be a fact!" said Patricia Chindoy, Kamsá indigenous leader and participant in the process.

This 75th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights urges us to continue building peace from the local level, ensuring that every individual, regardless of race, origin, gender or any other condition, can fully enjoy their rights and contribute to a more just and equitable world.

With the collaboration of Codhes.


bottom of page