M a r c h    8 t h

International Women's Day

Women in Colombia and around the world play a fundamental role in economic and social development. This month, we want to highlight stories of resilience, courage, dedication, entrepreneurship and bravery that inspire us to continue working hand in hand with the Colombian people.


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Maria Adelaida Arboleda


Maria Adelaida Arboleda is 28 years old and grew up among the cows on her family's dairy farm in the village of San Felix in northern Antioquia. The influence of the countryside in her life also reached the professional sphere and her love for animals drove her to become a veterinarian. Two years ago, Maria Adelaida decided to join her mother and father in agricultural production, taking the reins of their family business to put the knowledge acquired in the academy at the service of their herd. Since leading the two lines of production of her family business (milk production and swine production) Maria Adelaida has managed to grow both businesses, obtaining important advances in technology and productivity. The integration between dairy and swine farming has allowed her to reduce her dependence on chemical fertilizers for pasture production, implementing a production model based on the use of organic fertilizers, which is much more sustainable. As an Associate Producer of Colanta, Maria Adelaida has counted on the financing and support of her Cooperative in the implementation of the improvements that have led her to become a successful case of generational integration in agricultural production.


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Luz Ángela Almanza

Puerto Rico, Meta

As a woman of afro-colombian descent and a leader in my community, I am proud of my role in the Somos Paz Network and as a legal representative of the Asociación de Negritudes de Puerto Rico Meta. My journey has been marked by the defense of women's rights and the promotion of social inclusion. Through my work, I have been able to build trust in my community and establish effective channels of dialogue with public entities. My story is a testimony to the power of citizen participation in social change. I invite other women to empower themselves and join our struggle for a more just society.

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Breidy Lizzeth Gómez

Puerto Rico, Meta

I am 15 years old, a young woman who together with my family started a company "Marapet", which innovates with passion fruit derivatives, combining them with coffee, tea and chocolate. I live in the village of Caño Alfa in Puerto Rico (Meta) and I am an active part of the initiative "Youth Manager of Change" where I have strengthened my entrepreneurship and leadership and also integrates rural youth in entrepreneurship, promoting equality and reducing gender gaps, preventing their migration and promoting local development.

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Gloria Alexandra Caicedo Ordóñez

Vereda Tangareal, Tumaco

Since I was a child, picking cocoa and fruits with my parents, I learned the importance of effort and dedication. At the age of 34, I became the legal representative of the El MIRA cooperative and joined INVIAS as a worker and empowered woman who, through learning about social control and oversight, promotes equity and progress in my territory. For 18 years, I have combined my role as a housewife with my work on the roadsides of the Pacific coast of Nariño, using machete and scythe to keep them beautiful. At 52, my noble and humble spirit is still strong, inspiring other Colombian women to never give up.


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Martha Maestra

Turbo, Antioquia

Martha Mestra, a 58-year-old rural woman and head of household of three children, has had the opportunity to develop skills in areas such as business management, accounting and finance, digital marketing, new product creation and project planning, among others, to strengthen her microenterprise with the support of USAID.

After suffering situations of violence, Martha arrived in the municipality of Turbo, in the department of Antioquia, an area known for its banana and plantain production, where she started a beekeeping business in 2004, becoming a pioneer of this product in the region. Through 'Ecomeliponas', the micro-entrepreneur works with Africanized and native (stingless) bees, from which she extracts raw honey, one of the most sought-after by customers.

Martha took her business to another level with the specialized training offered by Empropaz (a USAID project), through which she strengthened her knowledge in balance sheet management, financial improvement, budgets and commercial strategies, resulting in the growth of the commercialization of her products in the stores of the municipality, and she also has a point of sale in her home.

She already has 30 hives of Africanized bees and 10 of stingless bees. Thus, in addition to honey, she sells pollen and propolis products at her home store and in other stores in the Urabá area, which represented an increase in sales during the pandemic. Ecomeliponas' is a microenterprise that is on its way to becoming a flagship of the municipality and the department.


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Ninfa Herrera Domínguez

La Montañita, Caquetá

Ninfa Herrera Domínguez is an Uitoto indigenous woman who found in her gastronomic enterprise a way to protect the culture of her people. In her youth, she arrived with her family from her reservation in the municipality of Solano, which borders the Amazon in Caquetá, to the capital of the department, displaced by violence and was always eager to participate in the councils of the region to work on behalf of the communities and even became an indigenous governor and set up her own settlement in the municipality of La Montañita, which she called K+g+fene Murui Muina, from where she extracts much of the raw material for her restaurant: 'Monifue', which operates in Florencia.

Ninfa says that through Empropaz (a USAID project) support she was able to acquire tools and knowledge on administrative, innovation and financial issues, among others, which she considers was a learning process that allowed her to have a comprehensive vision of how to structure her business, thus consolidating her process as an entrepreneur. In this way, she went from selling sporadically to having a physical point where she could offer her preparations on a constant basis and began to keep organized records of the information related to her economic activity and manage social networks to make it known and position it as one of the first to take indigenous cuisine to a high level.

"The business is managed by one of my daughters. I am passionate about protecting part of my culture that was becoming extinct, in fact, the idea arose because I saw colleagues who were embarrassed to eat something indigenous in front of other people and did it in secret. They were ashamed that it was known that we have dishes with larvae, ants, plants or exotic fruits, that should not be a reason for shame, on the contrary, it is a healthy food", says Ninfa, who through her business rescues products that she says have been lost from the indigenous history and also offers specialized attention to its customers, both national and foreign, making them a pedagogy about her people to socialize their cosmogony and provide nutrition as a mission to take care of life from what is consumed.


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Imbilí, Tumaco

Doña Juana is a 67-year-old woman who has lived in the Imbilí neighborhood of Tumaco for 45 years. Since the construction of 8 ecological bridges and 2 kilometers of treadmill began, she has led the participation of the community "I'm the one who turns on the trumpet and when people listen, they start to come out''. 

She joins the group of more than 12 women of the community who have led the contribution of unskilled labor, "Several of us are in charge of watering the mix and loading the buckets with the mix, even the teacher taught us to use the codal and use it to polish the mix when it was poured". 

Never before had the women of Imbilí worked on a construction site, but building a path that will improve the access conditions to the school for their children was the motivation to do it for the first time, demonstrating the capacity of organized and constant work of the women of the community "when I was studying we had to leave here without shoes because we arrived muddy up to the knee and now it is different, you see them with their shoes and that is good for your children to see the example". 

As a result of this process, the women of Imbilí are creating an association and have begun to be trained by the Foundation for Peace and Reconciliation in a strategy called ESPERA (School of Forgiveness and Reconciliation).

This work has been an opportunity to unite the community and rethink the roles that women have traditionally played, as one of the leaders emphasizes, "the men's view is different now, there is much more unity between all of us, men and women, and also between the young and the older women, I think this is symbolic and will remain for history''. For Doña Juana "this is making peace because it brings development to the community and better coexistence''.


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Diana Maritza Figueroa

Kalapicá Community, South of Tolima

Diana Maritza Figueroa has been Governor of the indigenous community Kalapicá Ambulú Sacred Territory of the Pijao people in Ataco (Tolima) for the last twelve years. During this time, she has built a leadership characterized by the promotion of inclusion and empowerment of her community to represent and defend the rights of the indigenous communities of her municipality.

From the leadership for the recognition of their community for political advocacy, the partner of the Together for Transparency Program, National Forum for Colombia - Central Region, prioritized them to undertake a social control initiative with which to strengthen their capacities and knowledge to participate and relate with local authorities and establish scenarios for public dialogue between indigenous communities and institutionality.

"When we started our training, we specified that it should be done integrating an ethnic approach that would meet our needs as an indigenous community, therefore, the support to the social control initiative was carried out in our Bohío, which is located in our plot near the urban area of Ataco and represents a place of history and transcendence that seeks to preserve the struggle from the creativity, training and spirituality of our ancestors", mentioned the Indigenous Governor.

This process provided inputs to the community to learn how to make instruments to request information for social control, as is the case of petition rights, tutelage actions.


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El Toro, Cáceres

Natalia is 25 years old and was born in the rural area of El Toro in the municipality of Cáceres. She reminisces about her early life: "Living with my parents and grandmother, agriculture was a big part of our lives. My journey to education started here, often traveling long distances on foot or by donkey, sometimes under heavy rain". Her life took a significant turn in her teens. "At around 13 or 14, due to family difficulties, I decided to leave home. I met a young indigenous man who introduced me to the indigenous culture, teaching me the customs and involving me in the Zenú indigenous community of Isla de la Dulzura".
Natalia's journey was marked by hardships, including displacement due to the Hidroituango dam crisis, and living in temporary accommodations. She continued, "Despite these challenges, I pursued a nursing assistant course."
Her participation in various activities, including Weaving Together, a psychosocial strategy of USAID’s Weaving Lives and Hope Activity (WLH), implemented by the International Organization for Migration (IOM), marked a turning point. "I learned to express myself, to connect with nature. We had workshops on painting, financial education, and gender equity. These experiences were transformative".
Natalia, an active member of the Weaving Communities Network, played a significant role in the "Soy Mujer Rural Isleña" initiative in Isla de la Dulzura. This initiative fostered community integration and a safe environment to highlight women's roles and prevent violence. It emphasized empathetic communication and self-awareness to combat gender-based violence. The initiative culminated in a special event featuring a sensitization talk on women's rights and violence prevention. Women from the community actively participated, showcasing their culture and solidarity through handmade crafts, local cuisine, and traditional beverages.
Natalia's story is a testament to resilience and the power of community. Through the support of WLH, she has found new paths to contribute to her community and preserve her cultural heritage. Her dream of establishing an indigenous school on her land is now more than just a vision, it's a journey in progress, driven by her relentless spirit and the collective strength of her community.


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Luz Mery Cuero Garcés

Buenaventura, Valle del Cauca

For more than a decade, Luz Mery has worked hard in social work that has left its mark in the María Eugenia neighborhood of Buenaventura and its surroundings. Her valuable experience has led her to hold the position of president of the Community Action Board, where her leadership has stood out for generating significant changes and empowering others.

Luz Mery has been able to strengthen her intellectual and personal capacities through her participation in the components and mechanisms of the Alianza Activa Buenaventura, this has been an opportunity to grow, learn and seek effective solutions for the challenges faced by her community.

"I want to make an invitation to all the women of Buenaventura to seek more training opportunities and acquire knowledge that we can pass on to young people. We have great wisdom and capacity to lead the way towards a better Buenaventura, while recognizing the valuable contribution of men," said Luz Mery Cuero.


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María Lucía Vargas

Riosucio, Chocó

María Lucía Vargas David responded to two fires in late 2022 as a volunteer firefighter in Riosucio, a municipality in the Chocó region of Colombia's Pacific coast. 
She decided to become a firefighter in November 2020 after seeing videos of a fire that claimed the lives of a child and a young woman and destroyed some 80 homes in the Salaqui indigenous reservation in Riosucio.  "The tragedy demonstrated the need for a fire department in the municipality," explains María.  
The Riosucio-Chocó volunteer brigade was formed. María, along with other volunteers, traveled to Riosucio, Caldas, to train with the Volunteer Fire Brigade, the first volunteer brigade of indigenous firefighters in Colombia.  Since its creation in 1999, the Riosucio-Caldas Volunteer Fire Department has designed a training program to minimize the social, environmental and economic impact of forest fires and disasters in vulnerable ethnic territories, such as Riosucio, Chocó. 

The indigenous volunteer firefighters program is now being replicated throughout Colombia. It has been implemented in 15 departments, including Antioquia, Amazonas, Cauca, Caldas, La Guajira, Magdalena, Meta, Vichada and Chocó. An increasing number of communities are requesting the program from the National Fire Department of Colombia - DNBC. In addition, the volunteer program has expanded to Mexico, Argentina and Guatemala.


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Elisa Caro Ríos

San Jacinto, Bolivar

In the land of the large hammock, this leader turned her family's vertical loom business into an opportunity for the women of San Jacinto, Bolívar. The association "Tienda Siglo XXI" was consolidated by the desires and skills of 18 women who sought in weaving a way to build safety and support networks, generate income, transmit knowledge and not let traditions be lost with the younger generations. 

In 2021, USAID's Somos Comunidad program arrived and one of the beneficiary Civil Society Organizations was the one led by Elisa Caro.
She and the other women have been able to participate in different workshops, exchange spaces and scenarios in which they have learned from other experiences, but especially the management of new digital tools. The workshops on social networks and communication for social change have opened doors to the world in an assertive way. "When clients contact us and place orders we all have work and that motivates us to continue and strengthen ourselves, now they know us better. We feel more empowered and confident. What I like most is that they teach us with all the necessary materials, they are prepared people with leadership, that generates interest and one learns because one learns," adds Elisa.



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Fany Atencio


Fany is a lawyer with the Corporación Colectivo de Abogadas Helenita González Pérez, an organization that works with women in the department of Bolívar.  Her tireless dedication has brought closure to cases of violence that languished in impunity. Her work highlights the importance of addressing injustice and the need to fight for a fairer and more equitable legal system for all women.


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Eugenia Jiménez

San Pedro de Urabá, Antioquia

Eugenia is originally from Puerto Berrio, a riverside municipality located in the department of Antioquia. She moved to San Pedro de Urabá 35 years ago and comes from a peasant family, from whom she learned all about farming. 
Cocoa became a central project in Eugenia's life. She has traveled new paths and has expanded her technical knowledge to the point of being considered one of the best producers in the Urabá region.  This crop has given her very good results and has united her family. Eugenia says that the changes in her family go beyond economic aspects: "It has made us more united because our main productive activity is cocoa, not bees, not bananas, we are no longer beekeepers or fishermen, we are cocoa farmers, because we have seen good results". 

Today, Eugenia is a producer who stands out because she rigorously complies with her fertilization cycles, providing and applying the right fertilizer according to technical recommendations. She is a cocoa farmer who has managed to considerably increase the productivity of her crop (from 80 kg per hectare to 700 kg per hectare).


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Mariela Perdomo Claros


Mariela has transformed her adversity into triumph. At the age of 30, her activism has influenced public policy and led her to become a municipal councilor, consolidating her commitment to rights and advocating for disabled women in a context of violence and armed conflict. 

Mariela immersed herself in socio-community and political action, advocating for disabled women in a context of violence and armed conflict. Her voice resonated and now as a councilwoman, she influences public policy in Florencia, Caquetá, elevating the needs of her community to a government priority.

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Flavia Largo


Flavia Largo, Zonal Coordinator of the Kiwe Thegnas Indigenous Guard, stands out in the defense of life and territory in the southwest of the country. Flavia personifies the resilience of women leaders in the defense of their communities and cultures, for a more inclusive and peaceful future, where there is no place for the forced recruitment of children and adolescents of her community.

On January 30 and 31, Flavia participated in the "Meeting of Women in Ethnic Guards: Challenges of Collective Self-Protection from the Perspective of Women", organized by InspiraPaz in Santander de Quilichao (Cauca). This meeting aimed to make visible and strengthen ethnic self-protection efforts, focusing on the disproportionate violence against indigenous peoples and their leaders, as well as the unique challenges faced by women human rights defenders.

Reflecting on the importance of the event, Flavia stated, "The gathering of women in ethnic guards was extremely important because it brought together women from diverse defense processes, allowing us to come together as women leaders. Within the Kiwe Thengas, we always emphasize duality and unity between women and men, striving to make this a reality. We have advanced as Kiwe Thengas because we now have female coordinators within the process. It is an investment in training female leaders to become counselors, authorities and mentors. It is a process that has progressed.


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Liliana Petro

San Bernardo del Viento, Córdoba

Liliana is a leader of ASPROVIB, an association of farmers and plantain growers in San Bernardo del Viento, Córdoba, and is part of the supply chain of Acceso, one of USAID and Acumen's Investing for Peace Fund investments.  Like Liliana, many women in Colombia are changing the dynamics that currently favor men in rural areas and are positioning themselves as decision-makers in their communities.


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Women of Asocoman

Montes de María, Sucre-Bolívar

The women of the Asociación Agropecuaria Comunidad El Mango (Asocoman) lead a project in the Serranía de Coraza y Monte de María Protected Forest Reserve, conserving nearly 120 hectares of tropical dry forest. With more than 20 ingredients in productive farmyards, they benefit 30 families and protect the region's natural resources. With USAID support, they have strengthened local capacities and overcome barriers, demonstrating the transformative power of women to drive economic development and conservation. Their collaboration with restaurants such as Celele and Alquímico in Cartagena has broadened their impact and recognition.

Asocoman women lead key roles, from production to marketing, and are pioneers in integrating marketing and business processes, showing that when women have access to resources and opportunities, they can lead significant change. In addition, their paid participation in the family economy contributes to the well-being and prosperity of their households. Their ability to lead, innovate and transform their communities is an inspiring example of how women's empowerment can drive sustainable development and make a positive impact on the world. With a positive and hopeful approach, Asocoman's story highlights the potential of women to lead environmental conservation and community development initiatives, demonstrating that change towards a more sustainable future is in the hands of those who lead with determination and vision.


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María Vázquez

San Jacinto, Bolívar

María Vázquez, a woman of courage and determination, experienced the harsh reality of forced displacement in 1998, when she had to leave her home in El Carmen de Bolívar due to the armed conflict that plagued her community. 
Years later, her resilient spirit took her back to her homeland, to the village of Arenas in the municipality of San Jacinto, Bolivar, a place where the gaitas and ceibas welcomed her back to build a secure future. Upon returning to Arenas, Maria faced a new challenge: the lack of a land title. Courageously, she approached a plot of land and negotiated the purchase of a piece of land. She was left with a paper of sale, but it did not fully guarantee the security of her home.
"I was worried that since the owner is a family, if I didn't have a title to back me up, they could claim the land. The lack of a formal title put me at risk of losing what I had built."
In 2021, when USAID's Our Prosperous Land Program arrived in San Jacinto to offer her the opportunity to obtain title to her land, through the implementation of the Rural Property Social Management Plan, María was able to formalize her property and obtain a land title issued by the National Land Agency, which has delivered 232 titles in the municipality, 139 of which benefit women.
The recognition of property rights for rural women is essential to promote their economic autonomy by guaranteeing their equal access to economic resources and decision-making related to them. USAID seeks equal land titling, which benefits both individual women, as they drive the sustainable development of rural communities as a whole.