The Indigenous Guard of Cauca in Colombia has received a prestigious international human rights award.
The group, Kiwe Thegnas (Defenders of Life and Territory), were granted the award in a virtual ceremony. The award is given annually by the Irish organization Front Line Defenders. Kiwe Thegnas won for the Americas region. Front Line Defenders is a strategic ally of PAX in the protection of human rights defenders in Colombia.
Joris van de Sandt, PAX coordinator for Latin America: "We congratulate the Guard on receiving this award and celebrate with them. We know the risks they take for the protection of their community.”
Front Line Defenders convenes an international jury to choose among the nominees for the award. Front Line Defenders Executive Director, Andrew Anderson said, “The Guard represent a unique model of collective protection in one of the world’s most dangerous places to be a human rights defender... This award acknowledges this uncommon courage for the entire Guardia collective.”
The Indigenous Guard of Cauca embodies dignity, rights, resistance, and peacebuilding. It has been victimized by the armed conflict in the region. Last year, Governor Cristina Bautista and four indigenous guards were murdered near the Tacueyó reservation in the municipality of Toribío. During the presentation of the award, a tribute was made to their lives and to all the guards killed in the exercise of their duties as protectors of the territory and of indigenous way of life.
Respect indigenous culture
Joris van de Sandt was with the Kiwe Thegnas when they received the award. “PAX works with the Indigenous Guard to strengthen these communities to ensure that their rights are protected. We hope that international recognition will be mirrored by the national government and the whole country will support and protect the work of the Indigenous Guard. We hope that they won’t be stigmatized anymore, and that their lives, their culture, their exercise of self-rule and collective protection, will be respected. This award is a great motivation for the Northern Cauca region, as a reference for peace, autonomy and resistance."