On the 30th of September, 2013, Adelina Gómez Gaviria was gunned down by paramilitaries in the small township of Almaguer, department of Cauca, Colombia. Her eldest son, aged 13, was wounded in the attack.
The 36-year-old mother of three was returning home after a women’s meeting. She was killed for opposing an Anglo Gold Ashanti mining project that threatens to destroy the local area and the livelihood of the people living there.
Adelina was one of the leaders of a campesino organisation dedicated to defending local land rights. In Almaguer she also set up a Mining and Environmental Forum in which some 1,500 campesinos and indigenous people took part.
Her anti-mining activities resulted in telephone warnings: ”Stop messing about with that mining stuff, it’s dangerous and you’ll get yourself killed.” She was also frequently approached in the street and warned to stay away from people who opposed mining.
Adelina wasn’t given to delivering speeches on platforms. She spoke to people one to one and on a personal basis, regardless of whether they were for or against mining. Her mission was to hold the community together. She did this at ground level and throughout the region, speaking with the constant determination that characterises the way women carry out their tasks and responsibilities. It is a quiet form of leadership that may seem modest, perhaps even insignificant, but which is fundamentally exercised by women. All too often it is devalued by many institutions and even popular organisations that prefer the male model, which favours political action and speeches. Both approaches are useful in their own way, but we must value and make visible the thousands of women who are indispensable within their own communities because they organise, give meaning to and uphold both resistance and action.
Those behind Adelina’s murder know that women like her are key factors in spoiling the plans of companies seeking to enter territories and displace their communities in order to set up their mining operations in Colombia, a country being carpeted with megamining projects.
There are 5 women on the list of 14 social defence leaders killed in Cauca department’s rural areas. Adelina Gómez Gaviria is yet another woman added to that tragic list.
The shooting of Adelina and the other men and women being killed daily in Colombia cries out for these crimes to be investigated and those transnational companies that instigate the killings to be brought to justice.
Anglo Gold Ashanti is a transnational mining company listed on the London Stock Exchange.