top of page

To persist, despite the difficulties

Anyi Cárdenas is a young female leader who, after the signing of the Final Peace Agreement, has found in collective processes a way to work for a better country. Today, her invitation is for all individuals, especially young people, to make a difference in peacebuilding.

Photograph from Anyi Cárdenas' personal archive

"The biggest challenge was to find a society that was not prepared to receive us". This is how Anyi Cárdenas, a 25-year-old girl from Boyaca, began the conversation. She highlights the great change that being a signatory of the Final Peace Agreement with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC-EP) brought to her life in 2016.

She is one of the young leaders who are in the Georgina Ortiz Territorial Training and Reincorporation Space (ETCR), in the municipality of Granada (Meta), and who is part of the project "Care for peace. We are for life" project. Her story is an inspiring tale of commitment and transformation for her community, especially for young people, who are beginning to see her as a reference and role model.

A start with conviction

Anyi joined the ranks of the FARC-EP motivated by a desire to change what for her was an unjust society.

I remember the first time I left. I had a tremendous fear, because on the one hand there was this desire to want to transform things, but, on the other hand, there was all the fear that had been instilled in us, the ideas that they were rapists, murderers, and so on.

Joining the guerrilla was a personal challenge. It implied a radical change in his plans and life project. In addition, it generated a rupture with his family, since he did not inform them of his decision. This caused great concern and his absence was a difficult period for them.

A new chapter

After the signing of the Final Peace Agreement in Colombia, Anyi and other ex-combatants faced numerous challenges in their reincorporation process. One of the biggest challenges was adapting to an environment that was very different from life in the guerrilla.

"The organization solved absolutely everything and we, as militants, were part of the gear. The instruction was to safeguard the life, integrity and human dignity of those of us who were there", says the peace signatory.

Being part of the system, as she calls it, has been "crazy". For Anyi, finding herself in a fast-paced world of rivalries is a sign that Colombian society has not advanced in the defense of people's rights. In addition, the reincorporation process has led to a traditional division of labor, which translates, according to her testimony, into women being delegated, for the most part, to caretaking roles in the home, while men get productive jobs outside the ETCRs.

At first, we did not think that this would happen, because we came from other dynamics, until we saw that women were doing all the housework and that, unfortunately, men were already ahead of us: they were in the public sector, they were working.

Against this backdrop, the project "Care for peace. We are for life" project has become a space for women's empowerment - promoted by Anyi as one of the territorial liaisons - with the purpose of strengthening youth leadership. There, they have worked on training processes from the gender, disability, children and youth approaches.

The other challenges in terms of reincorporation are also related to issues of care and equality, because even though we work very closely together, men and women, -something that has had its ups and downs-, we have had to stand up hard to defend our rights. Because when this whole process takes place, we see that unfortunately many things have changed.

In the conversation, the signatory points out the ups and downs that have occurred, because for some months now the peace signatories of the Georgina Ortiz ETCR have been occupying a provisional space in the municipality of Granada (Meta) after having to move from the property they occupied after the signing of the 2016 peace agreement, located in the municipality of Vistahermosa (Meta). The security conditions that threatened their integrity were the main reason for displacement.

Anyi states that, as a community, they try to maintain their norms of coexistence, sustainability and conciliation in the face of difficulties. Their leadership is motivated by a desire to continue, to respect what was agreed in 2016, despite the current risks and challenges - as she points out, referring to the stigmatization and murders of signatories. To this she adds "there are many things that have transformed us, the issue of families, the children of Peace, that transforms one completely".

Added to these challenges is the difficulty in finding employment for the signatories, but, at the end of all this, "knowing what it is like to have families to protect inside the ETCRs -something we did not think of doing years ago- has transformed our vision of life and coexistence".

Additionally, the signatory recognizes that these processes and changes have allowed them to show who they are beyond a uniform or a rifle, because as she says "we were and are people with many dreams, with many desires and, above all, we are betting on the construction of a better country". Despite the stigmatization and threats, they have continued to fight for peace and for the fulfillment of the commitments of the Agreement.


PHOTO: Winning women's soccer team at the Vista Hermosa ETCR sports integration day. In the center, Anyi Cárdenas, team captain.

Anyi became a youth leader by generating and promoting spaces for socialization, training and empowerment in the ETCR where she resides, guided by the life plan that has been consolidated collectively. Her leadership is characterized by the trust that the signatories have towards her, the commitment she has shown, the shared dreams and the respect that has been promoted from and towards others.

It has been a whole process in which there have been many ups and downs, but I think that the most beautiful thing is the trust of the community itself, that commitment and those dreams, that support always, there we have the community that supports us despite the problems. I inform them about everything, because the community guides us on how to carry out this leadership exercise.

In her message to other women, she invites them to recognize the value of their actions and to trust in their ability to make a difference. Her story is a reminder that every decision and every action contributes to change; her story is a testimony to how conviction and mutual support can overcome difficulties.

About the project "Care for Peace. We are for life."

The project aims to generate safe spaces for which it contemplates a series of actions aimed at recognizing care as a human right, prevention and attention to violence against children, adolescents and youth (NNAJ); improving women's access to protection mechanisms against gender-based violence (GBV), proposing meeting spaces around care and parenting and adapting, enriching and equipping care spaces for early childhood.

This work is developed jointly by UN Women and UNICEF, with resources from the United Nations Multi-Donor Fund for Peace, through Liga Internacional de Mujeres por la Paz y la Libertad (LIMPAL) and Juntos Construyendo Futuro (JCF) and in coordination with the Agency for Reincorporation and Normalization (ARN), the National Council for Reincorporation (CNR) Comunes Component and the United Nations Verification Mission.


bottom of page