Transitional justice as education: A feminist network for empowering truth commissions

Lead Research Organisation: University of Bristol
Department Name: Education


Colombia's Commission for the Clarification of Truth, Coexistence and Non-Repetition is tasked with investigating the truth behind one of the world's longest running armed conflicts. In its preparatory phase, the Commission has been attentive to lessons learned from truth commissions around the world, of which there have now been more than forty. It introduces a number innovative practices, positioning it as an important part of Colombia's wider transitional justice process and of its chances to build a lasting peace.

Too often, truth commissions (TCs) have left engagement with formal and informal education until the end of their work, missing out on opportunities to engage the wider population in their work and to effect change in mind-sets and educational processes. Likewise, many TCs have included women's experiences of violence only narrowly or have approached gender as a discrete theme, unconnected to the rest of the TC's work. The Colombian TC is determined not to repeat these mistakes. However, like the Colombian peace process more generally, the TC faces significant challenges - polarised public opinion around peace, as demonstrated by the no victory in the 2016 referendum on the peace deal between the government and the FARC; rising rates of violence and active conflict regions of the country; and an upcoming Presidential election that may jeopardise the peace process. As they begin their work, Truth Commissioners and TC staff working on gender and pedagogy are bound to confront daily challenges of a high stakes, emotional, and exhausting stakes endeavour to collect the testimonies of up 50,000 Colombians affected by conflict.

This network seeks to support the gender and pedagogy work of the Colombian TC, ensuring that the TC is able to make a significant contribution to embedding a gender just and inclusive peace in Colombia. Using tools from the arts and humanities in feminist methodologies, affective agency, and transformative pedagogy, the network will connect Colombian truth commissioners and their teams with inspirational feminist leaders, who have led and learned from TC experiences elsewhere. These former Truth Commissioners are peace activists, human rights advocates, indigenous leaders, educators, and dignitaries - they will share their experiences being part of truth commissions from South Africa to Canada and Timor Leste to Peru, and they will support and offer strategic advice on the gender and pedagogy work of the Colombian TC, through a series of workshops and travel visits.

The project will collect the experiences and reflections of these inspirational leaders through a series of peer interviews, that will also feed into the supportive relational work of the project. These will be used to produce an interactive website aimed at future feminist peace activists and leaders around the world, which shares the life histories, advice and inspiration of these incredible individuals.

The network will have impact at a number of levels, including for: 1) the individuals who make up the network and draw energy and inspiration from it for their important transitional justice work; 2) the success of the Colombian truth commission and its contribution to peace in Colombia; 3) international TC and transitional justice best practice; and 4) sharing and developing theoretical tools around affective agency and transformative pedagogy in transitional justice.

Planned Impact

Drawing on the PI and Co-I track records of producing impactful research and on the strong networks of all project partners, our network will have impact for the following constituencies:

Impact for network participants
The network will bring together approximately 15 individuals (the great majority of whom will be women from the global south) to reflect upon, support and share experiences about doing high profile, emotional and important work on gender and pedagogy within truth commissions. This will be an affirming, supportive space that will nurture and benefit participants. It is oriented especially towards supporting those working in the pedagogy and gender working groups of the Colombian TC, who will be in the midst of an intense, emotional and high stakes period of work. The support of the network will contribute to their wellbeing as well as to their abilities to successfully and strategically undertake their professional roles within the TC.

Impact for the Colombian TC and its contribution to the Colombian peace process
A successful TC has the potential to help consolidate peace in Colombia, but also faces considerable challenges and needs support. Gender and pedagogy are central commitments of the Colombian TC and are identified as priorities for successful TCs in the international literature. The project will support this work and therefore contribute to ensuring that the Colombian TC makes a positive contribution to: 1) women victims and survivors of conflict that it engages with through its work; 2) embedding gender justice in the wider post-conflict landscape in Colombia thanks to its recommendations; and 3) the wider transition to peace in Colombia thanks to its successful engagements with formal and nonformal educative and pedagogical processes in Colombia.

Impact for transitional justice best practice and future TCs
The Colombia TC experience will be shared at a public event in Bristol during Workshop 3. There is a large, existing audience for this type of event in Bristol thanks the projects outlined above. We will publicise the event widely and share a blog summary on the Centre for Comparative and International Education blog. One of the academic publications from the project will also focus on sharing the Colombian TC experience in implementing these areas of 'best practice'. It will be published open access in a leading academic journal. We will also produce a PolicyBristol brief (published in Spanish and English) aimed at international transitional justice actors and future TCs, based on this article.

Impact for future feminist leaders and peace activists
The project will produce an interactive website based on content (including some filmed content) from peer interviews with network members, all of whom inspiring women leaders primarily from the global south with expertise in TJ, gender and pedagogy. It will be designed as a resource to inspire and offer practical support and advice to future feminist leaders working to support peace and justice in their contexts.
The website will be launched at event in Bristol during Workshop 3. The website link will then be shared by project partners and through their extensive networks.

Impact for theoretical development of feminist TJ, affective agency and gender and education in transitional justice
The second academic publication from this project will focus on the theorisation of the network's activities, with a particular focus on affect theory and affective agency. It will be published open access in a leading interdisciplinary journal.


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