Race, Gender, and Conflict: How Women’s NGOs Build Peace and Enhance Gender Justice in Colombia
Date of Award
Campus Access Dissertation
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Global Governance and Human Security
Margaret P. Karns
This project examines how women’s NGOs build peace and enhance gender justice in Colombia following prolonged armed conflict. Colombia’s conflict has claimed over 220,000 lives, displaced 7.7 million people, and worsened human security threats. Dominant peacebuilding scholarship has underexplored marginalized experiences with conflict in the Global South, and tends to cast women as victims instead of agents. As a result, we know little about women’s peacebuilding experiences in the context of their cultural, physical, and historical location. Using a case study, my project captures the experiences of Afro-descendant women peacebuilders and the strategies they use to build peace and enhance gender justice in Buenaventura and Bogotá, Colombia. In doing so, my research creates space for marginalized communities to share their understandings of peacebuilding and gender justice, thereby documenting their contributions to peacebuilding research.
This project applies decolonial feminist theory to offer an alternative understanding of peace and conflict studies, a field overshadowed by Western, male, and English-speaking scholars. My approach challenges Western discourse, engages with peacebuilding knowledge produced by marginalized groups, and promotes knowledge exchange from the Global South to Global North. Guided by intersectionality, my research focuses on activities led by feminist actors and recognizes the importance of history, culture, race, and gender.
Drawing on six months of extensive fieldwork, this project finds that women’s NGOs and mixed-gender feminist organizations use African spirituality and ancestral knowledge to develop strategies that confront the legacy of Spanish colonialism, including gendered and racialized experiences. Dignity is the foundation of both women’s and mixed-gender feminist NGOs’ definitions of peacebuilding, and is used as a framework to confront structural inequalities, racism, and gender hierarchies.
This project contributes to the knowledge on the intersectional nature of peacebuilding and its connection to gender, race, and colonialism. These findings can encourage scholars and practitioners to rethink how they study peacebuilding as well as how their approaches can better respond to local dynamics and needs.
St. Clair, Safiya Kemba, "Race, Gender, and Conflict: How Women’s NGOs Build Peace and Enhance Gender Justice in Colombia" (2022). Graduate Doctoral Dissertations. 753.
Available for download on Saturday, May 31, 2025
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