It was only in 1957 when women in Colombia exercised their right to vote. This comparison is made with the United States of America, which opened this opportunity in 1920 for its women. With almost 30 years of difference, the struggle of Colombian women has been a constant. However, there is still a long way to go.
However, in the last decades, women from Colombia have achieved important conquests. This is in relation to the promotion of equality and empowerment. Next, we tell you a little more about its history, outstanding characters, and everything that is changing for the good of its women.
History of women’s rights in Colombia
To transform their historic situation, women and their organizations have promoted actions to demand their rights.
The first woman’s name recognized in Colombian history was Policarpa Salavarrieta (1795-1817). She was a figure who played a key role in the independence from the Spanish empire. Although many women also contributed to this noble work, Policarpa lives on in the memory of Colombians, even though she only lived 22 years.
It would be several years before women in Colombia would once again stand out for their innovative spirit. At the beginning of the 20th century, María Rojas Tejada (1890) brought the innovative Montessori method to Colombia. She did this with the aim of promoting women’s education. However, she would suffer several pressures from the society of the time, leading her to change her city several times.
In 1920, Colombian women would have their first work strike. It was initiated, led, and negotiated by the worker Betsabé Espinal (1896-1932). Without the support of her fellow workers, Betsabé signed the negotiation for a 40% increase. In addition, she also achieved an agreement for a 9-hour and 50-minute workday. In this agreement, she also reached a pact to stop sexual harassment of her coworkers by their managers.
A few years later, they finally obtained the right to vote. It was granted by Gustavo Rojas Pinilla after years of struggle by women since the 1930s to acquire full citizenship. Among the most relevant women in the movement that supported the Colombian women’s vote was Esmeralda Arboleda, who led the movement together with Josefina Valencia. (Wikipedia 2021)
4 facts about rights for women in Colombia
Today, compared with other Latin American countries, Colombia demonstrates greater gender equality. This is due to the various measures that were taken and continue to be strengthened to support and protect women.
The government of Colombia works for women’s rights and gender equality
The government has ratified all existing international treaties on human rights and women’s rights. This has made significant progress in developing laws to promote gender equality and guarantee rights for women.
Some examples are the Guidelines of the Public Policy for Gender Equity for Women and the Comprehensive Plan to guarantee women a life free of violence approved in 2012. Also, the Victims and Land Restitution Law, approved in 2011, with important provisions on gender equality. As well as Law 1257 “Whereby rules are issued for awareness, prevention, and punishment of forms of violence and discrimination against women”, of 2008.
We can also find Law 1719 of 2014, which adopts measures to guarantee access to justice for victims of sexual violence. Especially sexual violence in the case of armed conflict, among others. While these norms provide a solid framework for advancing women’s rights, there are still challenges for their full implementation, as shown by data on gender gaps (Colombia UN Women 2021).
The Colombian government combats violence and discrimination
In the 1980s, the government ratified the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against women (1981). Subsequently, they began to take important steps with the Political Constitution of Colombia of 1991. This would help to develop the principle of equality as a social, economic and cultural right, thereby reducing discrimination.
In the last three decades, national governments have developed different policies in favor of women: in 1992, the Comprehensive Policy for Women was formulated. Later, in 1994, the Participation and Equity and Women’s Policy – EPAM – ; in 1999, the Equal Opportunities for Women Plan; and finally, in 2003, the Women Builders of Peace Policy.
Also in 1995, the Inter-American Convention on the Prevention, Punishment, and Eradication of Violence against Women was ratified and entered into force in Colombia on December 15, 1996. Likewise, Law 294 was issued to prevent and punish domestic violence in the country, among other legislative advances. (Colombia UN women 2021).
Women are having more access to education
Great progress has been made in education. Colombian women have a higher rate of education than men. However, women still face significant difficulties in accessing employment, and when they do enter the labor market, they face significant wage gaps and work in high levels of informality.
The 2018 census figures show that the literacy level among women has not only decreased compared to the results of the 2005 measurement, but also exceeds that of men. Today, that level of literacy among women between 15 and 24 years of age is 97.7%, compared to 95.7% for men. In 2005, this ratio was 96.4 and 95.1 % (El tiempo 2019).
Colombian society mobilizes in favor of women
The efforts of civil society, community groups, and activist organizations have increased awareness of women’s rights. For example, we can find practical examples such as Limpal and Pacific Route of Women. Two institutions that are constantly working for the development of women’s rights.
Another important aspect to highlight to make change tangible is participation in politics. In this area, there have also been great changes thanks to the occupation of women in important public positions. For example, the case of Claudia Lopez, the current mayor of Bogota, Colombia’s capital. She became the first woman and the first openly gay mayor in the country. However, there is still a long way to go in this regard.
By 2019, in the public administration, 47% of management positions were held by women. However, it should be noted that in the last 20 years female participation in Congress has increased by only 7.5 percentage points, going from 12.2% in 1998 to 19.7% in 2018. (Colombia UN women 2021).
Finally, we can find that the role played by women in Colombia is a space that remains in a constant transition. Without great struggles and amidst several difficulties, the country currently presents unique opportunities to advance the full participation of women in all aspects of society.
Although spaces are still opening, Colombia continues its transformation process. We are seeing a country with gender equality where men and women can count on the same opportunities. It is the right time to seize the change, take the reins of society and achieve true social development. We are in the era of equality and this is something we must openly declare to the world with facts.
Economía y negocios., (0 de julio de 2019). Mayor educación lleva a que la mujer tenga sus hijos más tarde. El Tiempo: https://www.eltiempo.com/economia/sectores/acceso-de-la-mujer-a-la-educacion-en-colombia-segun-censo-del-dane-385138
ONU., (19 de agosto de 2021). Las mujeres en Colombia. Colombia UN women: https://colombia.unwomen.org/es/onu-mujeres-en-colombia/las-mujeres-en-colombia
ONU., (19 de agosto de 2021). Liderazgo y participación política. Colombia UN women:
Wikipedia., (19 de Agosto de 2021). Derechos de las mujeres en Colombia. Wikipedia: https://es.wikipedia.org/wiki/Derechos_de_las_mujeres_en_Colombia#:~:text=En%201932%2C%20se%20obtuvo%20el,la%20secundaria%20y%20la%20universidad.