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In Colombia, Women Are Cleaning Up The Remnants Of Its Bloody War

Twitter / @HI_UK

In Colombia, women were directly impacted by the more than half a century-long bloody war between the military and the guerrilla rebel group, Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia—Ejército del Pueblo (FARC). Their husbands, fathers, sons and brothers were killed. They were often subject to sexual violence, including rape and forced abortions. Today, three years after a peace pact was made between both armies, the women are now cleaning up the conflict’s deadly remnants.

In war zones throughout the South American country there are leftover explosives. Guerrillas planted landmines in towns, by schools and homes, as well as fincas years ago, prepared to ambush their enemies when they needed to. While the land is no longer occupied, many still fear walking through affected areas, knowing the risk they take stepping on a mine and detonating a bomb that could take off their leg.

Humanity & Inclusion (HI), an internationally funded humanitarian aid organization, is working to remove these mines — and it’s largely powered by women. In fact, 40 percent of the group is women and some, like Erika Romero, also lead teams.

“In the armed conflict, the mines were the most effective mechanism to do damage. Mines don’t discriminate,” Romero, HI’s base manager in Caquetá, told Teen Vogue. “Mines aren’t going to just target people in the military. The mines are going to take down civilians, the most vulnerable population. They’ve taken down children, animals, mothers, farmers.”

From 1990 to 2017, more than 11,000 people were killed or injured by mines and explosive, like grenades, mortars or bombs, that remained after the war.

This makes the women’s work essential. Before they started, 31 of 32 of Colombia’s departments were sullied with mines. That’s down by three. It might not seem like a lot, but the work is dangerous, making it meticulous and time-consuming.

Still, it’s labor that excites Marifer Culman Ortiz. The 19-year-old wakes up each morning, puts on her shatter-proof mask and anti-explosive gear, and begins her day in the minefield, moving away scrubs in the jungle and hovering her metal detector over the ground until she hears a long beep.

“It’s a very beautiful kind of work,” Culman Ortiz told the magazine. “That is, you have to go out to these areas and free them from many dangers like mines. Then people can pass through these pathways without fear that they’re going to step on the ground and lose their leg.”

Without women, this crucial work couldn’t get done. In the rural communities largely impacted by the war, there’s still a distrust of outsiders. This complicates the work of deminers, who often count on locals to identify areas where mines might have been planted. Those from the area are more comfortable speaking with familiar faces, who tend to be young women eager to rebuild their communities.

“Families are not going to trust people they practically don’t know and give this information because they could say ‘No, it could put my family at risk,’” Andrea Trujillo Ramirez, one of the women who works with the organization in the community she grew up in, said. “When we [women] go there, they almost always give us the information because they aren’t scared of us.”

Trujillo Ramirez was raised in a farmhouse near an encampment-turned-demining locale. Her childhood was plagued by war. She remembers hiding in bathrooms and under beds to protect herself from bullets as well as her mother pulling her out of school so she wouldn’t be hit during an unexpected, but common, shoot-out. She knows the pain of losing an uncle to a land mine and a brother, a member of FARC, to a clash with the military.

“The importance of this work is that I don’t want my family to have this experience of pain that I have had to live,” Trujillo Ramirez, who has a 7-year-old daughter, said.

While the Colombian government and the rebel group signed a peace pact in 2016, many fear that new conflict may soon arise. The government, which promised reparations for victims, reintegration of former combatants into society and developing the country’s destitute and rural areas, haven’t carried their vows through. Most recently, Colombian President Ivan Duque, who was elected last year, has questioned the accords altogether.

Former FARC rebels, upset by the unfulfilled pledges, have returned to war zone areas, carrying guns and sparking fear into many community members who are familiar with what a war-torn Colombia looks like.

This puts the women’s work at risk. They now face being at the center of violence themselves for attempting to detonate the remnants of yesterday’s brutality — a danger that could potentially put an end to their demining efforts.

“There would not be guarantees that we wouldn’t be forced out,” Romero said. “We could be at risk for the work we do with the communities so we would have to stop.”

For now, the women continue cleaning and hoping for a safer time ahead.

Read: This Queer Colombian Muralist Is Changing The World One Wall At A Time

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Documentary About Jenni Rivera Will Address The Sexual Abuse That She And Her Daughters Suffered At The Hands Of Her Ex-Husband

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Documentary About Jenni Rivera Will Address The Sexual Abuse That She And Her Daughters Suffered At The Hands Of Her Ex-Husband

A documentary about the life of beloved Mexican-American singer Jenni Rivera is in the works. The film, which according to reports is being developed by Gloria Estefan’s husband Emilio Estefan, will feature unseen concert footage from her final concert.

Rivera, one of the most popular recording artists out of Latina America from this century, died in a 2012 plane crash when she was just 43.

Rivera is the singer of classic songs such as hits such as “Mariposa de Barrio,” ”Paloma Negra” and “De Contrabando.”

During her career, Estefan worked closely with the singer, directing specials that featured her. Now he and television producer Dave Broom of “The Biggest Loser” and “The Day I Met El Chapo” are joining forces with Rivera’s family to produce the film.

Speaking to the Associated Press about the new project, Estefan said “I really want people to know her with the same admiration that I had for her as a human being, and that her fans realize how important her followers, and especially her family, were to her… We had a very beautiful friendship … I met her as a singer, as an actress, but at the same time as a person.”

Both Estefan and Broom have said that they expect to release the film late this year, though it is still unknown whether the film will make its debut in theaters.

Rivera’s sister Rosie has called the film “intimate.”

Speaking to Page Six via email, Rosie Rivera reportedly said that the film be emotion for the singer’s family, including her children, but that it is a necessary project to release.

“It is an intimate night with Jenni,” Rivera reportedly said. “To my sister Jenni, her faith, her family and her fans were everything. Jenni would have wanted to share this moment of her life with the world.”

Estefan says that the film will see Rivera narrate her own story.

“You are going to see something that’s really priceless. You are going to see her in concert again, but above all you will get to know much more and I think you’ll be certainly surprised by many things that are going to come out, told directly by her,” Estefan told Associated Press.

According to Estefan, the film will also include archival material and interview between Estefan and Rivera in which the singer spoke openly about experiencing rape at the hands of her ex-husband who also sexually abuse some of her family members.

In 1992, Rivera divorced her husband José Trinidad Marín, the father of three of her five children. Five years later, Rivera’s sister Rosie revealed that Marín had sexually molested her and that he was doing the same to Chiquis Rivera, the daughter he had with Rivera. A physical exam revealed that he had done the same to their other daughter Jacqueline. A molestation case was opened in 1997 and Marín spent 9 years as a fugitive before he was arrested in 2006, convicted of sexual assault and sentenced to over 31 years in prison.

“Many times women that have been abused or mistreated don’t say anything for fear of being blamed for what had happened to them, but she was always open and she was honest,” Estefan explained in the interview.

According to the producer, it is his hope that Rivera’s film will pay tribute to “women that have been mistreated, that have been deceived, that have been abused.”

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