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Strategies for Territorial Peace: The Overcoming of the Structural Violence in Women Living in Palmira, Colombia

Facultad de Ciencias Jurídicas y Sociales, Universidad Simón Bolívar, Cúcuta 540003, Colombia
Faculty of Law and Criminology, Universidad Autónoma de Nuevo León, Monterrey 66415, Mexico
Institución Educativa Jorge Eliécer Gaitán, Palmira 763531, Colombia
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
This article is based on a PhD dissertation that was approved in 2019.
Soc. Sci. 2020, 9(11), 211;
Received: 31 July 2020 / Revised: 1 October 2020 / Accepted: 1 October 2020 / Published: 18 November 2020
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Violence, Victimization and Prevention)


Women experience different types of violence, and poverty is one of them. The aim of this work was to show the situation of poverty experienced by women in Palmira and how this condition affects both their participation in and contribution to the achievement of territorial peace—a central political target in our country. For this, a descriptive and predictive study was carried out by applying a survey to measure the different types of violence affecting Palmirana women. The results demonstrate the predominance of structural violence suffered by women, which creates unfavorable conditions for the construction of peace in Colombia.
Keywords: feminization of poverty; territorial peace; structural violence; women; Palmira feminization of poverty; territorial peace; structural violence; women; Palmira

1. Introduction

The degree of satisfaction regarding Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights (ESCR), i.e., food, social security, physical and mental health, housing, work, unionization, education, a healthy environment, and water, is decisive in terms of knowing whether a person or society lives under conditions of poverty. According to the human development approach promoted by both the United Nations (UN) and authors like Sen (PNUD 2016), poverty deprives people of their rights to the point where it undermines the enjoyment of a fulfilling life, for example, when the people lack any options for transportation, education, food, and work.
According to the Latin American and Caribbean 2019 statistical yearbook from the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC 2020), 30.4% of women in the region live in conditions of poverty (including extreme poverty) in comparison with only 29.6% of men. This trend is the same in Colombia: this issue impacts more women than men, as was observed in recent studies conducted by national and international organizations, showing a significant increment in the number of poor women compared to poor men, from 102.5 in 2008 to 118 in 2018—i.e., 102.5 and 118 poor women for every 100 poor men, respectively—(DANE and UN Women 2019)1. Notably, in Valle del Cauca, a Colombian state located in the southwest of the country, and the gender poverty index figure is 126 (DANE and UN Women 2019). Thus, the rate of feminine poverty in Colombia reflects regional inequality between men and women, indicating the obstacles to be faced by women when seeking to access essential goods and services.
These figures become more relevant in gender-sensitive studies because a correlation has been identified between poverty and violence against women. This was highlighted by the General Secretary of the UN (2006), who stated that the economic inequalities evidenced in relation to employment, income, access to other economic resources, and the lack of economic independence create or promote the conditions for violent acts to appear, affecting women in their ability to act and make decisions.
In 2018, Cali, the capital of Valle del Cauca, was the city which experienced the most women’s homicides (Instituto Nacional de Medicina Legal y Ciencias Forenses 2019). Similarly, in 2019, the state suffered the second highest number of feminicides (Observatorio Feminicidios Colombia 2020). In this landscape, poverty correlates very closely with violence against women, at least in this region.
The municipality of Palmira is part of the 42 municipalities of Valle del Cauca; it is the third most populated municipality with approximately 310,000 inhabitants, and in 2019, it occupied 37th place in the ranking of the 50 most violent cities in the world based on figures developed by the Citizen Council for Public Security and Criminal Justice (2020). The latest reported numbers of violence in the area showed a total of 685 cases of family violence and 105 cases of sexual violence in 2017 (Observatorio de Familia 2017).
The latter is related to the post-conflict and peace-creation phase in the country that began when the peace agreement between the Colombian government and FARC (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia) guerrilla forces was signed. This agreement details the negotiation results from both parties with the aim of ending the armed conflict, and to build stable and long-lasting peace in the country.
In this context, we hypothesize that the structural violence (including poverty) has a more significant impact than direct violence (physical and psychological) and cultural violence (ideological) on the construction of territorial peace from the perspective of Palmirana’s women.
Although the Peace Agreement prioritized the vulnerable population living in rural areas because the armed conflict largely occurred in these areas, this research focused on the vulnerable population living in urban areas, and specifically, on women in unfavorable socioeconomic conditions, in order to understand their context and thus to be able to create and design the conditions that allow them to empower themselves, use their full potential, and thus contribute to peace in the country.
This paper starts by analyzing how the peace concept is related to transitional justice, in the Colombian context beyond the simplistic end of the armed conflict, in order to understand what kind of peace was intended with the final signing of the agreement. Then, how the poverty phenomenon significantly disturbs the life of women is explored, establishing that the feminization of poverty represents a new type of structural violence that must be solved through the active participation of women in this process. The methodological aspects of the study are detailed, and finally, the results and discussion are presented.

2. The Construction of Peace as the Objective of Transitional Justice

The transitional justice system was applied to open a new avenue for a real peace process. This form of justice was designed to overcome large-scale conflicts (United Nations 2004), like transitions from dictatorships to democracies, or from war to peace. This fact explains why, as this field has evolved, the research carried out has incorporated and highlighted the importance of the concept of peace within transitional justice (Sharp 2014). It also allows for the understanding of how the elimination of war has commonly been associated with the achievement of peace throughout history, as referred to by Fisas (Cabello-Tijerina et al. 2016).
Therefore, if peace has become essential to the field of transitional justice, it is worth defining it and knowing what is understood as “peace”. In this context, Galtung (1969) explains the concept of peace in a broader sense, paying more attention to the phenomenon of violence2 than to war. In this vein, it is worth noting that Galtung links the concepts of violence and peace, pointing out that the absence of violence is needed for the construction of peace. This approach allowed the notion of peace to be extended based on the analysis of the two types of violence identified in his initial study: personal or direct—physical violence; and structural violence—the absence of social justice. He also noted that if we are in the absence of direct violence, one could say that negative peace has been achieved, whereas if structural violence is absent, there is positive peace.
Thus, if looking at the scope of transitional justice by taking these concepts into account, it can be seen that it has been more focused on achieving a negative peace, i.e., aimed at the elimination of war and armed conflict, whilst leaving aside other forms of violence, such as structural forms, which are related to phenomena such as poverty and corruption. For this reason, it is not uncommon to find many democracies where, although the rule of law is firmly established, high levels of poverty and other forms of structural violence are maintained (Sharp 2014). A transitions can be a step towards varying degrees of peace (Duthie 2014); however, if sustainable peace is to be achieved, it is necessary to aim towards the achievement of negative peace and positive peace, along with the proper management of the underlying causes of the conflict, as stated by Galtung (Lambourne 2014).

The Peace Sought in Colombia

Taking into account the context of poverty and violence outlined above, it is appropriate to analyze the type of peace that Colombia is seeking. In this context, the Peace Agreement specifies that its purpose is to achieve a stable and lasting peace (Gobierno Nacional, y FARC-EP 2016), i.e., one that is maintained and sustained over time, or in other words, what is sought is that the steps towards peace and the achievements therein move in a direction that will prevent the resurgence of the conflict that is being overcome. Thus, one can say that the transition of the agreement is one that points to the construction or consolidation of peace, which can also be seen in the considerations written in the document which highlighted “the fundamental right of each individual and society not to suffer again the tragedy of the internal armed conflict that this Agreement intends to overcome definitively” (Gobierno Nacional, y FARC-EP 2016).
The term peacebuilding, as initially conceived, is referred to in the UN Secretary-General’s Policy Committee as:
A range of measures targeted to reduce the risk of lapsing or relapsing into conflict by strengthening national capacities at all levels for conflict management, and to lay the foundation for sustainable peace and development. Peacebuilding strategies must be coherent and tailored to the specific needs of the country concerned, based on national ownership, and should comprise a carefully prioritized, sequenced, and relatively narrow set of activities aimed at achieving the above objectives (United Nations Peacebuilding Support Office 2014, p. 4).
Massive human rights violations, involving a systematic and deliberate rupture of norms, allow all citizens and not just direct victims to feel their effects (De Greiff 2009). For this reason, it is difficult to say that armed conflicts, like the one in Colombia that lasted for more than half a century, cannot affect the whole of society. They happen at different levels and in different contexts. Because of the latter, the Office of the High Commissioner for Peace presented the concept of territorial peace, whose most predominant field of activity focuses on the active participation of society in the construction of peace from various territories or regions (Jaramillo 2016), and according to Criado (2017), corresponds to the construction stage or what is known as “post-conflict” in Colombia.
The territorial peace approach (2016) considers the economic, cultural, and social features of communities, ensuring socioenvironmental sustainability, and seeking to implement the different measures in a comprehensive and coordinated way with the active participation of the citizens. Authors like Guarín (2016) highlight the basic concepts that make up the notion of territorial peace, which are: territorial development (the possibility of attending to community aspirations); context according to the needs of the territories; the primacy of the territorial approach to the sectoral; decentralization; debt of the most vulnerable rural population; and citizen participation.
Additionally, Criado (2017, p. 53) mentions that “the territorial approach is a participatory planning system for the implementation of the content of the Peace Agreement in rural territories.” This situation is because, as has been indicated, the rural population has suffered the main consequences of the armed conflict. However, the agreement also includes a “large number of people affected in one way or another across the territory, including women, children and adolescents, peasant, indigenous, Afro-Colombian, black, palenquera, raizal and Rom communities, political parties, social and trade union movements, economic associations, among others” (Gobierno Nacional, y FARC-EP 2016, p. 6); additionally, the “general participation of society in the construction of peace” (Gobierno Nacional, y FARC-EP 2016, p. 7) is needed in order to regain the confidence lost during the time of conflict and promote a culture of tolerance, respect, and coexistence.
In this regard, the priority that the territorial approach sets for the attention of some areas that have suffered the consequences of the conflict more aggressively should not be understood as or confused with the concept of territorial peace. Criado (2017, p. 22) suggests that “territorial peace can be defined as the creation of effective conditions for peace in territories that have directly and most intensely suffered from armed conflict”, but if so, then where is the contribution to peace and the participation of the other territories that were not directly affected by the conflict? Territorial peace in Colombia cannot be understood as a fractional concept; instead, all territories must create the necessary conditions to achieve the construction of peace.
While the agreement is explicit in considering the importance of the society in the construction of peace—as it should be—given the characteristics and consequences of such an ongoing conflict, it focuses directly on the attention and prioritization of its direct victims; hence, some questions arise: Is the direct attention of the victims of armed conflict sufficient to achieve a stable and lasting peace? How is it possible for other members of society, who are not direct victims of the conflict but who are vulnerable or who have suffered the indirect consequences of the conflict such as poverty, to participate in the creation of peace?

3. The Feminization of Poverty and Structural Violence

Intersectional theory allows us to analyze the context and degree of vulnerability and discrimination through which women experience unfavorable socioeconomic conditions, because it explains the categories of inequality that often coincide in the same person or group of people. The example provided by Kimberle Crenshaw, which motivated this framework of understanding, teaches how intersectionality operates; in this particular case, it explains how race and gender come together, creating “square discrimination” for black women (Crenshaw 2016). With the intersectional approach, the author emphasizes that these categories cannot be understood separately as is usually possible, because this is insufficient to discern the contexts and different situations of inequality that women face (Crenshaw 1991). The author admits that the study only considers part of this problem, as there are additional factors other than gender and race involved, such as class and sexual orientation, which also affect women (Crenshaw 1991).
Intersectionality comprehension “can be understood as a study on power relationships, which also include experiences that can be designated as ‘despicable’, ‘belonging to margins’ or ‘dissidents’” (Platero 2014, p. 82). It allows us to explore discrimination based on women’s multi-leveled identities (AWID 2004) and how historical, social, and political contexts perpetuate different types of discrimination such as racism, patriarchy, and class oppression.
An essential reason for using an intersectional approach is given by Collins (2008) when explaining how people are often put into binary categories, such as white/black, male/female, or thought/feeling. However, these categories are insufficient in identifying people’s unique experiences. For instance, she takes the example of the lives of African-American women. In her specific experience, the categories of race and gender are combined, but in other cases or experiences, the interactions may be different. Mainly for this analysis, it is not appropriate to group women’s status and poverty, because following Collins’ argument, it is invalid to think that a woman wakes up one day as a woman who suffers poverty and another day in poverty decoupled from her biological condition as a woman.
Bearing in mind that it is possible to find different categories of inequality, one can make progress precisely by considering this intersectionality between gender and class. Today, this distinction can be better understood under what literature has stated as the feminization of poverty, which “can be defined as (a) an increase in the difference in poverty levels between women and men; (b) an increase in the difference in poverty levels between woman-headed, man-headed and couple-headed households” (Medeiros and Acosta 2008, p. 116).
This study uses the first notion, even if it is not intended to compare the levels of poverty between men and women. However, it only focuses on the situation of poverty experienced by women, because the degree of vulnerability of women to men is a widely documented and recognized phenomenon today. Thus, the intersectional approach is an ideal framework to explain how gender and class categories interact simultaneously in Colombia’s population of poor women and why their study is essential.

Poverty as a Manifestation of Structural Violence

Consequently, it is necessary to understand the effect of poverty on women, and then establish how this relates to the achievement of a stable and lasting peace. To this end, the concepts offered by Johan Galtung related to direct, structural, and cultural violence are used, the latter introduced as a continuation of the initial study on the other types of violence mentioned (Galtung 2003).
Galtung (2003) highlights how structural violence occurs by exploitation as a central element within the society’s structure and is perceived through a division existing in any society among those who are in a higher position and benefit more than those in a lower position. Because of this exploitation, those in lower positions may starve or end up in a permanent state of misery, including through facing malnutrition and disease. Likewise, this unequal structure that the author describes clearly resembles the traditional division between poor and rich (Cabello-Tijerina and Quiñones 2019).
As for direct violence, Galtung says that “a typology of physical, personal violence focused on the tools used, can be developed by starting with the human body itself (in the elementary forms of fistfights and more advanced forms, such as Karate and Aikido), heading towards all kinds of weapons, completing, so far, with ABC weapons”—Atomic, Biological, and Chemical—(Galtung 1969, p. 174).
Concerning cultural violence, these are “aspects of culture, the symbolic realm of our existence (materialized in religion and ideology, language and art, empirical sciences and formal sciences—logic, mathematics—), which can be used to justify or legitimize direct or structural violence” (Galtung 2003, p. 7).
Some examples provided by Galtung allow the difference between the types of violence to be understood. If children are said to be killed, a reference would be made to direct violence, but if it is indicated that they die from poverty, then this is structural violence. Anything that is undetectable through eyesight is part of cultural violence (Ramsbotham et al. 2017). In this way, when reference is made to direct and structural violence, it is about the creation of a need deficit (Galtung 2003).
Taking into account this type of violence, the feminization of poverty could be understood as the inability to meet basic needs. Regarding the unequal treatment of women, in terms of the distribution of goods and services within the social structure, it can be easily inferred that women affected by this condition face a type of structural violence within society, which places them in a lower position and deprives them of access to goods and services on an equal footing with respect to others. Therefore, women face different difficulties than men when meeting their basic needs. Thus, throughout history, it has been considered that women are in this unsatisfactory situation because of the fact of being women and therefore being “inferior”, encouraging aspects of cultural violence. This fact explains, for example, why “women [are] up to 11 percentage points more likely to develop food insecurity”, “globally, there are 122 women between 25 and 34 years old living in extreme poverty for every 100 men of the same age”, and why “the global gender wage gap is 23%. Women’s activity rate is 63%, while men’s activity rate is 94%” (UN Women 2018, p. 4).
Galtung explains that this type of violence interacts as a causal chain and uses a vicious triangle to illustrate how that chain can initiate with any of the three types of violence and then degenerate into another one. Thus, manifestations of violence can begin with cultural violence by indoctrinating people to end up naturally accepting exploitation; in other circumstances, direct violence is used to subdue, while in others, there appears to be an unequal social division representative of structural violence that is slowly legitimized by an appropriate doctrine that supports it (Galtung 2003). In this way, they are all intertwined, and one causes the other.
For this reason, it is not surprising that women are the poorest, so they are openly affected by the manifestation of structural violence (Schwarz and Estrada 2017), which in turn makes them an easy target of direct violence (UN 2006), all of which has increased culturally perpetuated male hegemony and has allowed women to broadly accept male power (Connell 2012).

4. Methodology

A model of logistic regression was used, taking variable women suffering from violence versus women who do not suffer violence as a dichotomous dependent. Independent variables were direct, structural, and cultural violence. This was a non-experimental study as a single sample was analyzed, and it had a cross-sectional design because a survey instrument was used once; it was predictive to the extent that under certain conditions of independent variables, the model of logistic regression classifies, for this particular case, whether the women perceive themselves to be suffering from violence or not suffering from it.
The study selected a sample by using conglomerates involving the four schools that educate the largest number of students in the commune number 1 of the city of Palmira, consisting of 26 neighborhoods whose houses are located in socioeconomic strata 1 and 23. In the first stage, two schools were chosen at random: Jorge Eliécer Gaitán and the Polytechnic School of the Valley. In the second stage, 425 mothers or women 18 years of age or older were randomly chosen through student lists who provided training to 43 students from higher groups to implement the instrument used for the study. Fieldwork was carried out in March 2019. The time of the survey ranged from 12 to 15 min.
The instrument initially consisted of 16 identification questions and 23 questions on a Likert scale—this was reduced to 20 due to the unreliability of three questions according to Cronbach’s analysis (i.e., questions: C19: “to build peace in Colombia, do you need people to be close to God?”; C24: “do you think that men should earn more than women?”; E30: “in the last two years, have you depended economically on men?”)—and eight multiple choice questions. Concerning the internal consistency of the instrument, a Cronbach Alpha coefficient of 0.715 was obtained, which is considered acceptable (Hernández and Pascual 2017).
The 20 Likert questions were written on a scale represented as follows: always = 1; almost always = 2; sometimes = 3; almost never = 4; and never = 5. The corresponding items, E31, D35, D36, D37, D38, and D39, were negatively asked, and the valuation scale of 1 to 5 was coded (never = 1; almost never = 2; sometimes = 3 almost always = 4; and always = 5). A woman does not experience violence was scored as a total valuation of 20 to 60, and a woman that experiences violence had a summary assessment of 61 to 100; this score yielded results showing that 0.409 (or 41%) of the surveyed women perceived themselves to suffer from violence, which represents the letter P (the probability of success) for the sample size, while 0.591 (or 59%) was the proportion who perceived themselves to not suffer from violence, which represents letter Q (the probability of Failure). The study had a 95% confidence rate and an estimated error rate of 4.67%. The analyses were performed with the help of the SPSS version 20 statistical program. Questions were asked based on the concepts of direct, structural, and cultural violence developed by Galtung, which were explained.

5. Results

Regarding the multivariate analysis in the logistic regression model, the two-response assessment options were defined concerning the dependent variable (b), representing the cut-off point at 0.5; the probability of “women who do not experience violence” extended from 0.0 to 0.5 (it represented 59.1%) versus “women who suffer from violence” with a probability of 0.5 and 1.0 (it represented 40.9%). The model was as follows: Pr{b}= 1 1 + e z , where z is the linear combination Z = −2.908 + 1.737 *(single) + 2.06 *(free union) + 1.871 *(divorced) − 0.326 *(studies) − 0.340 *(the number of inhabitants in the house) + 2.214 *(has decent housing).
For example, this indicates that a single woman (single = 1), who has completed university studies (studies = 5), who lives in a house with 1 to 3 people (the number of inhabitants in the house = 1), who considers that she does not live in a decent house (decent housing = 2), will have a probability range of 0.5 and 1.0, which can be obtained by replacing these values in the linear combination z = 1.287, where: Pr{b}= 1 1 + e 1.287 = 0.784. In this case, the probability value of 0.784 within the scale indicates that this woman suffers violence under the conditions of being single, has completed university studies, lives in a home with 1 to 3 people, and does not live in a decent house.
By replacing the individual behavior of each of the most significant variables with their categories to predict the likelihood of a woman’s violence through the logistic regression model, Pr{b}= 1 1 + e z was obtained and Pr{decent house}= 1 1 + e ( 2.908 + 2.214 * 2 ) = 0.8205 was obtained, indicating that there is a tendency to experience violence of 82.05% when not living in a decent house.
Likewise, if Pr{married} = 1 1 + e ( 2.908 ) = 0.0518 (which was taken as a reference with respect to marital status: dummy variable), Pr{single} = 1 1 + e ( 2.908 + 1.737 ) = 0.2367, Pr{free union} = 1 1 + e ( 2.908 + 2.067 ) = 0.3013, and Pr{divorced} = 1 1 + e ( 2.908 + 1.871 ) = 0.2617, then it can be seen with respect to marital status that vulnerability to violence is higher when in a free union with 30.13%, followed by being divorced with 26.17%, with a very low chance if married with 5.18%.
Taking into account having completed university studies, Pr{university studies}= 1 1 + e ( 2.908 + 0.326 * 5 )   = 0.2179, meaning the probability of women suffering violence under these circumstances is 21.79%. Finally, regarding Pr{number of inhabitants in the house from 1 to 3} = 1 1 + e ( 2.908 0.340 ) = 0.0374, the probability of violence is 3.74% if 1 to 3 people live at home. The most significant variables of the model according to the variables in the equation are represented in the Table 1.
It may be noted that the most significant variable that shows that a woman suffers violence is related to having a decent home, followed by her marital status, without considering if she is single [ESTA2(1)], is in free union [ESTA2(2)], or is separated [ESTA2(3)]. The latter turns out to be significant because it shows that being a woman in itself creates a condition of vulnerability that makes women prone to violence. Negative estimators can also be analyzed in terms of their level of education by indicating that the more education [ESTU3] women have, the lower the risk of them facing violence.
As for the number of people living in their homes [HOUSE5], it was obtained that there is a tendency for women to suffer less violence in houses with more inhabitants; meanwhile, women are at risk of more violence in houses with fewer people. Other significant results that demonstrated identification and multiple choice questions indicate that 27.5% of Palmirana women surveyed who live in a house with 4 to 6 people are in extreme poverty (DANE 2019).
Concerning the level of studies, women were only able to finish high school in 60.5% of cases, i.e., public education. This is an essential point because it indicates that public education encourages women to train intellectually, so their access to the university level could be increased, thus expanding their participation in the field of work, which is a critical factor because only 54.6% of surveyed women work. Furthermore, 72% do not own a house or apartment. This fact demonstrates the high inequality in the distribution of these goods against women.
The place where women feel more subject to discrimination is on the street, primarily due to their physical appearance (49.4%) followed by their economic situation (25.6%), which may explain why the development of values needed to build peace in the country was so important to them. This fact is evident because when asked whether they lived a life with values that aim towards the construction of peace in Colombia, they responded: always 60.2%; almost always 19.5%.
For these women, the president and the government are the ones in charge of constructing peace (54.6%), i.e., women do not see themselves as peacemakers. Another important result is that according to them, the effect of the conflict was the same both in the countryside and in the city (44%); this could affect the degree of violence these women feel they are exposed to, although when asked if they were victims of the conflict, 76.9% answered no.
When asked what factor needed to be eliminated for peace in Colombia to occur, 28.6% of women mentioned corruption as the most relevant obstacle to building peace, followed by unemployment and guerrillas forces with 14%. It is interesting to see that even though 45.4% of women surveyed said they did not work, they consider corruption as an issue that deserved to be resolved with higher priority than unemployment itself. Likewise, 16.9% of respondents reported being victims of the conflict and 14.6% being displaced. This result shows that although the conflict had a significant impact in rural areas, urban areas are also home to a significant population of direct victims of the conflict.
How poverty affects women as an expression of structural violence can be observed in their low level of studies, in the number of people living in their home, in the total household income, the level of unemployment, and the lack of any property ownership. In addition, there is a relationship between the level of studies of women and the way they perceive violence, i.e., the higher the level of studies completed, the lower women’s perception of the pervasiveness of violence is, because their tendency to suffer from it reduces.

6. Discussion

6.1. The Impact of Structural Violence in the Construction of Territorial Peace

This quantitative study showed that structural violence affects the construction of territorial peace from the perspective of Palmirana women more than direct violence and cultural violence; it was also observed that the vulnerability of women increases with violence. The latter is similar to the finding of Ríos and Gago (2018) who, in analyzing the conditions that allow for territorial peace in Colombia, found that aspects of structural violence constitute the most major concerns in the municipalities that were the subject of their study.
These results were also compared to Ross (2019) findings in the Canadian context, where the direct violence suffered by women within a peacebuilding framework was studied. Ross was able to show that physical violence against women is directly related to types of structural and cultural violence to the extent that these are the basis for or provide support for physical violence, and that these forms of violence end up being more visible.
Therefore, addressing structural violence for the construction of territorial peace is an effective form of prevention that discourages the emergence of direct violence against Palmirana women and promotes the elimination of existing forms of violence such as discrimination they experience in the street because of their physical appearance or their economic situation. During the process of dealing with this kind of violence, women make decisions and, therefore, participate in the construction of peace as empowered citizens for their territory.

6.2. Indirect Impact of the Conflict in Women

Even though participants showed that the conflict is something that has not impacted them directly because the most notorious events of the conflict occur in the rural sectors, they perceive that the conflict does affect everyone in the city and the countryside. As shown in the study, this contrasts with the information presented by Criado (2017), which is aimed exclusively at rural territories. It also agrees with the contribution stated by Bautista (2017) when saying that the dynamics and impact of social conflict are present throughout the national territory of Colombia. Following the above, it should be noted that territorial peace should be sought in all areas of the country; notably, rural population victims of this armed conflict are present in cities as well, as indicated in this study, with 16.9% of women being in this condition.
Otherwise, assuming that territorial peace is a matter that applies only to conflict areas, as was affirmed, would lead the inhabitants of areas where violent conflict did not have a direct impact to not be actively involved, as was indeed evidenced by this study. This is better understood after noting that women pointed out that peace cannot exist until corruption, unemployment, and guerrilla activities cease, aspects which they assume that they cannot intervene in directly. This assumption is made because they consider that there is nothing they can do to solve it. After all, they consider that these are outcomes that the president and his government should work towards.
This finding calls for a reassessment of the view that women are apathetic bystanders in efforts to achieve peace. For example, Salaudeen and Dauda Gombi (2019) discussed some limitations that hinder women’s visibility in the construction of peace in Nigeria. They mentioned that one of them is tokenism because women do not participate in high-level peace initiatives and, when invited, are relegated to auxiliary or subsidiary functions. In Colombia, while progress was made in terms of women’s inclusion in the peace process, taking into account that they achieved a 15.69% representation in the signing of the FARC agreements, decision-making and roles in the negotiations were ultimately influenced by a male majority, as mentioned by Chaparro González and Martínez Osorio (2016).
Likewise, Féron (2020) when studying Burundian women showed that governments tended to ignore women’s groups because conflicts have a political–military connotation. Since the women did not belong to these areas, they were not deemed necessary to consult. While it is comprehensible that during a post-conflict period, attention will be directed towards the areas where conflict has had more impact, in a conflict like the one in Colombia, which lasted for more than half a century, there is no doubt that the whole society and the lives of all citizens have been directly or indirectly impacted. Hence, while more direct action is needed in some territories, others require prevention and the elimination of current violence in order to create conditions for the active participation of citizens in the construction of peace, while reducing situations of violence.

6.3. How Poverty Is Expressed in Palmirana Women

Difficulties regarding access to employment and the ownership of property are also obstacles faced by Palmirana women, as well as their vulnerability to their low levels of education, income, and greater economic dependence, all of which increase poverty. This result is compared to the information presented in the second national survey of perceptions of violence against women in Bolivia (Schwarz and Estrada 2017). This is a problem because while direct violence did not turn out to be as shocking as structural violence in this study, the fact that different types of violence interact in a vicious triangle should not be overlooked (Galtung 2003), meaning that women with these problems are more exposed to suffering direct violence.
Considering the situations lived by women in each territory is a momentous task. Pierson (2019), in a study conducted in Northern Ireland, explains how significant this problem is and indicates the need for international instruments that regulate violence against women to be interpreted in context. This can be achieved by taking into account the circumstances of these unique situations because women are not only affected and victimized by conflict, but they also face disadvantages in areas such as employment and education. To illustrate this, the study highlights the level of importance of United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325 from 2000, which regulates the issues of women, peace, and security of the United Nations Security Council, as an international instrument for the protection of women. However, it also shows the need for an application of its postulates in a particular way, considering the needs of women in each society. In this regard, Pierson points out that although this resolution seeks to address important issues such as sexual violence, female activists do not consider this issue to have been part of the 1325 debate thus far. For this reason, it is worth examining and knowing the context of women in order to address the difficulties they face effectively.
Accordingly, in the transition from war to peace that Colombia is currently going through, this study allowed the situations of poverty and inequality faced by urban women in the territory of Palmira to be analyzed. Furthermore, to understand the formation of violence that these phenomena generate, which in turn provides the territorial peace approach, a current view of the problems faced by women in this city is necessary. It is essential to consider the aspects of direct violence, and cultural violence, and especially structural violence as having a direct effect on women, and on their ability to act and contribute to the achievement of the territorial peace enshrined in the Peace Agreement.
In view of this, a territorial peace approach that takes these issues into account makes peacekeeping and peacebuilding processes not only more common but also more visible for citizens, especially for marginalized populations. However, it also suggests a severe understanding of the type of peace people, or specifically women, need to obtain in each territory. Such an understanding is only possible through the generation of data that contribute to gender equity by looking into the ways of seeing and feeling peace that women have. This understanding contributes to the design and implementation of public policies in the municipality of Palmira, and is guided by it.
For this reason, territorial peace would make peacekeeping and peacebuilding a real and observable process for citizens, particularly for marginalized populations. However, a major analysis of the type of peace that people, especially women, want to achieve in each territory is necessary. This understanding is only possible through the generation of data that contributes to gender equity by researching the individual perspectives that women have regarding peace. The data will also help to fill the gaps on this topic, which relates to the Sustainable Development Goal of ending poverty (Departamento Nacional de Planeación 2019). Besides, the research allows public policies to be designed based on knowledge. As a result, these data will contribute to (1) the analysis and impact of each territory and (2) the design of policies in the Palmira municipality. In addition, the benefit of such a study is that it takes into account the real conditions of its citizens, contributing to the elimination of structural violence in order to promote peace.
Finally, although this study was only carried out in the city of Palmira, the proposal is addressed to other local governments along with their institutions. There is a call to action to become sensitive to gender equity problems during this crucial phase of transition to peace, adopting a territorial peace approach that considers the specific circumstances of women in their territories, i.e., a peace that is widely understood and encompasses the main problems faced by women in their communities. The intention is to allow these women to recognize the skills and capacities they have in order to contribute to the achievement of a stable and lasting peace.

Author Contributions

Conceptualization, K.Q. and P.A.C.-T.; data curation, W.N.Q.L.; formal analysis, W.N.Q.L.; funding acquisition, K.Q. and M.V.d.l.R.; investigation, K.Q.; methodology, K.Q., W.N.Q.L.; project administration and resources, K.Q.; supervision, P.A.C.-T.; validation, W.N.Q.L.; visualization, M.V.d.l.R and W.N.Q.L.; writing—original draft, K.Q. and M.V.d.l.R.; writing—review & editing, K.Q. and M.V.d.l.R. All authors have read and agreed to the published version of the manuscript.


This research was funded by Consejo Nacional de Ciencia y Tecnología (CONACyT) 291250 and Universidad Autónoma de Nuevo León (UANL). The APC was covered by Universidad Simón Bolívar (USB).

Conflicts of Interest

The authors declare no conflict of interest.


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DANE acronym stands for the National Department of Statistics.
Galtung (1969) says that the somatic incapacity, deprivation of health, and death (most visible consequence of wars) are certainly manifestations of violence, but not all parts of it, because if violence were only understood according to these manifestations, it would mean that the absence of these situations would imply peace, and therefore, a close understanding of the concept of violence would limit the concept of peace.
Strata and methodology. Residential properties to which public services are provided were classified in six socioeconomic strata as follows: (1) low-low; (2) low; (3) medium-low; (4) medium; (5) medium high; and 6) high (Congreso de Colombia 1994).
Table 1. Variables in the equation.
Table 1. Variables in the equation.
BStandard ErrorWaldglSig.Exp(B)
Step 1 1STA2 10.55940.032
1 Variables specified in step 1: ESTA2, ESTU 3, People 5, HOUSE16.
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