22 juni 2020

Report: The role of social leaders in Colombia during the COVID-19 pandemic

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Mensen met een Missie publishes the report ‘Red Flag’, which illustrates the challenges that Afro-Colombian and indigenous (female) social leaders face during the COVID-19 pandemic. It is the result of a collaboration with Colombian NGOs and NY Times photojournalist Federico Rios.

Due to the mandatory COVID-19 quarantine, the challenges for social leaders in Afro-Colombian and indigenous communities are immense. Social leaders play a vital role whithin these communities, as the government has neglected them and treated them as second rate citizens for more than 500 years. This neglect is again exposed because of the humanitarian health crisis caused by COVID-19.

Social leaders provide Afro-Colombian and indigenous communities with food and water but also protect women against sexual violance and human trafficking. At the same time they have to deal with life threatening situations themselves. Since the beginning of this year, 112 social leaders and human rights defenders have been assassinated, 35 of them during the quarantine.

We invite you to read the report “Red Flag”. It illustrates the importance of the role of female, indigenous and Afro-Colombian social leaders in Colombia during the COVID-19 pandemic through impactful photos and stories. It shows you why the protection of these leaders is important and necessary.


Zoraya Garzón decided to be a social leader 17 years ago. In 2014, she was threatened and persecuted by urban paramilitary groups, who wanted to capture and recruit her 20-year old daughter.

Digital dialogue

The report ‘Red Flag’ was discussed in the webinar “COVID-19 and peacebuilding: leaders of the Colombian Pacific tell us”, social leaders enter into a dialogue with international embassies about the challenges they currently face in peacebuilding processes. Click here to read the article on this webinar.

More information? Don’t hesitate to contact Andrea Rodriguez Frohwein, Program Director Colombia via this link.  

Photos: Federico Rios