Diakonia - People change the world
In the Misak community, the men think that they’re the ones who make the decisions. But they’re facing competition. The women are tired of doing the laundry and the cooking. They’re demanding to participate in the community. Cecilia Tombé Morales is one of the women leading the way. Photo: Åsa Maria Hermansson

Cecilia in Colombia is passionate about women’s leadership

Cecilia Tombé Morales in Colombia is a passionate change maker who is working courageously alongside others so that people living in poverty can gain power over their own lives.

4/15/2014 Publisher: Lena Hansson

Not just there to cook and do laundry

Cecilia and her fellow women are tired of men’s oppression, both in the family and in society. They are tired of thinking that as Misak women, they only exist to wash clothes, cook food and take care of the family.

“We Misak are indigenous people from Silvia in southwest Colombia. There are 26,000 of us. 13,500 are women. But the men have still been in charge in our community for hundreds of years. However, this is now in the process of changing.”

Shares wisdom with other women

Cecilia takes parts in the meetings that the organization Comunitar arranges. At these meetings, women share their experiences and learn from each other. They then take this knowledge home with them and pass it on to other women. Cecilia says that the work with Comunitar has been important in two ways.

“On a personal level, it has meant an awakening and being strengthened as a woman. We’ve also taken this experience with us to community level. We share it with the other women and get the men to notice that we also exist.”

Worked her way upwards and now makes her presence felt

Today Cecilia is one of seven political leaders of her community. She started off as a secretary. Gradually, she has created more of a platform for herself.

“We now participate. Previously, we only had administrative positions in the community. There’s a pride and a strength in the fact that there are now several women leaders. It’s something new but extremely valuable. It means that women get to see that we can do things – that we’re capable of taking on major tasks.”

Refused to stop getting involved

At first, the men thought it was strange. Cecilia’s husband was upset and tried to get her to stop. In relation to the other men, he was ashamed. But he’s now proud of her and says that Colombia should actually have a woman president soon. Cecilia laughs and says that he was quite simply forced to accept it. Because she won’t be giving in any more.

Like a rag on the floor

But there’s a lot left to do. So far they’ve only reached a small portion of the 13,500 women. Many women remain in the home. The proportion of mental health issues among women is considerable.

“Women here suffer from various types of violence. Sexual, physical and mental. They haven’t had the opportunity to ask for help. And when justice is to be done in a conflict, the men come out on top. We haven’t been allowed to take part in politics in our community. You feel like a rag that’s been thrown on the floor and stayed there.”

Wants to balance the scale

Cecilia says that there are still many women who let themselves be repressed. Many eyes remain to be opened to the chance to change this.

“So our goal is to help those women and to strengthen ourselves as women. We don’t want to always be in charge. But we must create a balance. We’ve discovered that we need to create a balance. Balance the scale. The path is uneven. Men stand superior to women. But we must create a balance.