Tuesday, April 17, 2012

The Crossed-Legs Campaign

Campaigners in full crossed-legs campaign mode on the Plaza Bolivar. 
The people of this small, poor town in Nariño Department were sick and tired of the road from the nearest city turning into a muddy trap every time it rained. And their appeals to the government for aid hadn't helped. So, the women of Barbacoas chose a tactic they felt sure would get the attention of men in power: a no-sex strike.
Men carry a person on a stretcher past trucks
stuck on a muddy highway. 

The town's women started their 'crossed legs movement' last June. This week, they are demonstrating on Plaza Bolivar, in front of Congress, the Supreme Court and Bogotá's City Hall.

The women said the campaign wasn't popular with their husbands - especially at the start.

"Sure, they got angry at first," said Carmen Alejandrino Perez, "but since then they've understood that we're fighting for a just cause."

The women said they considered theirs a battle for education, employment and health services for their community.

'For the dignity of the town of Barbacoas.'
The 56-kilometer drive from the city of Junin takes about 12 hours under the normally poor road conditions, the women said. But when the rainy season turns the road into a swamp it can take days, because they have to stop overnight mid-way.

The region's economy depends on gold mining, demonstrators said. The area also suffers from drug crop fumigation, which often also damages food crops, and violence by armed groups. But the women said that "for our own safety," they couldn't say whether it was guerrillas, paramilitaries or narcotraffickers who threatened them.

A crossed-legs campaigner in action.
Even the town's men said they supported the enforced abstinence.

"Sure, there's frustration, anger and sadness," said Jorge Ortiz, "when you look for what you like most, and they don't give it to you. But after a while we realized that the women are fighting for something great and just. And that's why we're here."

He said that the publicity the women's no-sex strike had generated had already brought half the 200 billion pesos required to build the road.

"We're hoping to get the other 95 billion pesos we still need," he said.

The women made another prediction: that the town's birth rate would soon plummet.

Trying to right an overturned truck.

By Mike Ceaser, of Bogotá Bike Tours

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