Fashion weaving the way for peace in Colombia

World Today

With the Colombian peace deal that ended 50 years of civil war now fraying at the edges, there are real concerns the country could descend once more into uncontrolled violence.

But advocates for peace are not giving up. And some successful re-integration projects are giving them hope.

CGTN’s Michelle Begue reports on one such program – from the unlikely world of fashion.

Can victims of war and the combatants they once feared, work together? That question was answered at a Bogota fashion show this week.

“One of the most important moments on the runway is the presentation of some articles that were made by former guerillas and Victims of Armed Violence,” says Angela Herrera, one of the designers involved. “The message we are sending is that fashion isn’t just superficial. It can send a political message like that of reconciliation.

The Fashion show, a celebration of a country in transition titled ‘From War to Peace,” or PAZarela, with a flourish on the Spanish word for peace. On display: Clothing made by the Colombian brand Manifiesta – and designed by 24-year-old Colombian Angela Herrera.

She worked with a FARC cooperative in one of Colombia’s 27 transition zones where former combatants have been trying to build sustainable projects to make a living. The effort came to be known as ‘Tejiendo Paz’ – or ‘weaving peace’ in Spanish and has slowly grown to have 12 sewing machines and a crew able to make clothing for entrepreneurs like Angela Herrera.

“We want to strengthen the project and work with many more former combatants, and send the message that the process of reintegration isn’t just for the combatants, it is also for the victims and population living near the demobilization camps,” Herrera said.

But Colombia’s road to peace has been rocky, and violent. According to the Colombian think tank Indepaz – more than 800 human rights activists and former FARC combatants have been killed to date — SINCE the landmark peace agreement was signed in 2016.

And just last month, a former chief negotiator for FARC in the peace talks — Ivan Marquez — announced he and others had taken up arms again — arguing the government has failed to fulfill terms of the agreement.

But these former guerrilla members said they are working on designing a new life far from the battlefield.

“I know there are more of us betting on the reintegration and construction of peace, than those thinking of going back to war. There are many more of us,” Gonzalo Beltran, a former FARC Combatant said.