Human Rights Archives Have a Female Face in Latin America

Ivonne Suárez Pinzón, the director of the General Archive of the Nation (AGN) in Colombia, defines herself as a feminist fighter who has worked for human rights since childhood. In her work as a teacher, historian, and archivist, she has witnessed firsthand the achievements of women as victims in their struggles for truth. Not by chance, she also directed the Oral Archive of Victims' Memory.

The Woman Post | Ayda María Martínez Ipuz

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"I believe that archives are fundamental because they are the support of democracies. They are often seen as piles of papers or documents, but in reality, the functioning of a democracy depends on how each of its citizens can exercise their rights, and for that, documents are crucial," she said.

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Ivonne believes that without documents, there is no basis for truth or possibilities for future societal planning and the exercise of citizens' rights. "All these functions depend on the state of the archives, on how we generate policies to protect them, on how interested we are in preserving them so that they can provide answers in the future about past events. The most important thing is to start allowing the public to access the information because ultimately, documents are any form of information support that we need to develop as a society," she explained.

A New Vision of Archives
The truth is that it was women who changed the concept of archives in the region. Initially, it was historians who began to show concern for archives, but they were not only part of the elite but also men. "It was women who gradually, in the 1960s and 1970s, started fighting for spaces in society, including archival work for human rights," she added.

Women in the region, along with their struggles to search for their beloved amid conflicts or dictatorships, began to shape a more human rights-oriented vision of archives. Today, women lead 80% of the archives in Latin America, as they were the ones who paved the way with great awareness. As a result, the most significant ethical developments in this field were made by Latin American women.

"Women started asking themselves how to exercise their rights and become better citizens by taking care of documentation. They asked questions that men didn't. Women were opening up new spaces in the fight for suffrage, in taking their first steps in forms of government, and in that work, they made developments in archival work," Ivonne expressed.

Fortunately, today, 70% of professionals in archival institutions are women with training in various disciplines. Their expertise goes beyond archiving; they are lawyers, engineers, chemists, restorers, and other specialists who provide a comprehensive perspective on rights. Documentation plays a fundamental role in this.

You can also read The Key Role of Women In The Quest for a World Without Wars

The Role of Women in Historical Memory
Armed conflict and human rights violations have turned widows into fighters for truth. 80% of the victims of regional conflicts are men, leading to millions of women becoming seekers of memory. "They were the ones who took positive positions in advancing consciousness, and memory, and have worked to weave those links and social bonds for reparation," she noted.

"Seven out of ten organizations are led by women. They have worked towards building memory archives. Additionally, the feminist movements in Latin America have experienced significant growth. Everything revolves around archives. Just look at the example of the Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo, where the importance of archives supports the pursuit of the right to truth. In general, women seek the truth to prevent the repetition of what they have experienced, which is why they document their stories," she affirmed.

Therefore, the director of the AGN highlights work`s women because they have been the creators of major memory archives that now form part of significant repositories in organizations dedicated to the search the truth. They formed a network, joined forces, and accumulated files that are now crucial in the struggle for human rights in Latin America and continue to support the creation of new productions through artistic expression.

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