Yimis Severiche, a woman who owns her story
My land: Rural women's struggle
November 14, 2022
As the strains of a typical Colombian vallenato play in the background, Yimis Severiche Montes holds up the title deed from the National Land Agency that proves she is the owner of the land on which she has built her life and livelihood. She can’t stop smiling as she talks about it: never in her 56 years did Yimis think that she would never live to see this moment.
Yimis is a strong woman with a contagious laugh. She is a community leader, the mother of four children and a farmer from the village of Sincelejito in El Guamo municipality, Bolívar department, Colombia. Her work as a leader began many years ago. She has been campaigning for improvements to the living conditions of rural women in her municipality ever since. Her work has expanded over the years, and Yimis has become a model of female empowerment and perseverance on Colombia’s Caribbean coast.
She learned to stand up for herself during the painful years of the Colombian armed conflict, which shook the region to its core. Despite the pressure that she came under from different armed groups, Yimis never wanted to leave her land. She, her neighbours and her children decided to informally divide the handful of hectares that they were living on so that each of them could build a better life.
Although this solution worked for years and enabled them to become self-sufficient, Yimis knew that the makeshift mental maps they used to divide up the land were not enough to bring about real development for her family and community. Then word reached the municipality of the formulation phase for the Social Land-Use Plans for Rural Property, which the National Land Agency is implementing with support from the United Nations Development Program (UNDP). Yimis and other women were among the first to participate in knowledge-building spaces that strengthened their leadership skills and provided information on public policy, land use and land tenure.
“All campesinos need to be guaranteed access to the Social Land-Use Plans for Rural Property, including us women. We need land of our own and decent housing, including paperwork to prove that we own it, which we still don’t have,” Yimis said in 2019.
Now that she holds the title deeds that formally recognize her as the owner of her land, this hard-working woman’s dreams have finally come true. As a result of the hard work of women community leaders and the decisions to prioritize Territorially Focused Development Programs (PDET) and Social Land-Use Plans for Rural Property, new opportunities are opening up for rural women. Not only will they be able to own their land, but they will also have greater access to credit to finance their productive projects and make their dreams a reality.For Yimis, equality between men and women and equal treatment are essential to living a life of dignity and lasting peace. “I want campesina women to receive the recognition they deserve and help them become political players and peacebuilders on the ground. I firmly believe that we all have the capacity to participate in local and national decision-making processes,” Yimis says, smiling like she always does.
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