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Equality and Territorial Development for Rural Women

Rufina Fonseca washing clothes - WE Care Colombia (Credit: Cineskrúpulos/Oxfam)

At a glance

Addressing Colombia's severe inequalities and including voices of the most marginalized people through ongoing peace processes.


Colombia is rich in natural resources, but it is also one of the most unequal countries in the world and has suffered over 50 years of conflict, killing more than 230,000 people and bringing severe social and economic impacts. In November, 2016, the government signed a peace agreement with FARC guerrilla group. This could herald a new, peaceful era in Colombia - but if it is to be sustainable, the peace process cannot ignore Colombia's enormous inequalities, including gender inequality and discrimination against ethnic minorities. Oxfam's 'Equality and Territorial Development for Rural Women' programme builds on our work over the last decade, including our evidence-based influencing that has led to significant changes in women's lives. The programme will use the opportunity presented by the peace agreement to influence policies that are informed by the voices of rural women and can help build a lasting peace based on equality.

Read Stephanie Burgos' blog The peace process in Colombia needs strong US support

Our approach

The programme focuses on three key objectives.

  1. Strengthening rural women's capacity to influence public policy around the peace process and reduction of inequality.
  2. More rural women with access to water and livelihoods.
  3. More rural women in priority territories reduce the time and effort spent on care activities.


In total, 20,662 people have benefited directly from the programme in 2016, in the following areas (some people have simultaneously benefited from several parts of the programme):

  • Strengthening of women's leadership: 7,646 people.
  • Strengthening livelihoods: approximately 5,100 people.
  • Access to water: 11,418 people.
  • Reduction of care work: 11,271 people.

Indirectly, 7,388,000 rural women have benefited from the programme, thanks to the creation of the Rural Women's Bureau and the inclusion of the public policy of Colombian rural women in the National Development Plan.

In 2016 a tax reform was approved in Colombia. Oxfam supported the Red de Justicia Tributaria (Tax Justice Network) in an influencing process that resulted in the reduction of VAT on women's hygiene products (tampons and sanitary napkins) from 16% to 5%.

Legacy of conflict

In December 2015, over 6.3 million people were registered as internally displaced in Colombia making it one of the worst-affected countries in the world. The devastating impacts of the conflict include the forced recruitment of children; the threat to life and livelihoods from landmines; attacks on human rights defenders; and young people with few prospects being lured into drug trafficking and criminal networks. Violence against women is rife, particularly in rural areas.

Colombia is rich in natural resources, but it is also one of the most unequal countries in the world. Oxfam's research has shown that farms of more than 500 hectares - which only account for 0.4% of all farms in Colombia - occupy 67.6% of productive land, and this concentration has actually increased over the last 50 years. Members of rural, indigenous and Afro-descendent communities have been dispossessed of eight million hectares of land (an area the size of Austria) as a consequence of the conflict, and 87% of internally displaced people are from rural areas. The government is abandoning public investment in agriculture and industry, and instead focusing on extractive industries, mining and the financial sector. A rapid escalation of mining activity is being stimulated by generous tax incentives - maximizing the profits of extractive companies, while the ethnic groups that live in the mining areas cannot meet 80% of their basic needs and suffer illiteracy rates triple those of the rest of the population.

In rural areas, 40.3% of people live in poverty and 18% live in extreme poverty; 85% of the rural population is without access to a sewerage system, and 60% without potable water. The average monthly salary of rural women is $76 (compared to $230 for women in cities). Women in rural areas dedicate on average five hours a day to collecting water, and do on average 19 hours more housework per week than men. One in every two rural women experience domestic violence, and indigenous women are 2.5 times more likely than other women to be raped or a victim of violence. In Colombia, women are under-represented in decision making at all levels: only 21% of those elected to the national government (for 2014-2018) are female.

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