Despite large gold deposits, the Chocó Department in Colombia is scarred by poverty. Women, who are victims of sexual violence and structural injustice, suffer most from the patriarchal and brutal conditions of society. Education can be a way out, but access to it is fraught with dramatic difficulties for girls.
The Chocó is one of the 32 departments (= political administrative areas) of Colombia, and is located in the northwest, on the border with Panama. Its size (46,530 km²) is comparable to Lower Saxony. With around 440,000 inhabitants and consequently a population density of 10 inhabitants per square kilometer, the Chocó is extremely sparsely populated (Lower Saxony: 164 inhabitants per square kilometer). The descendants of African slaves from the colonial era make up the largest part of the Chocó’s population: a good 80 percent of the population are of Afro-Colombian descent; about ten percent are indigenous and about five percent are white or mestizo.
The Chocó was a pawn in the armed conflict between various guerrilla groups and the state, which lasted over 50 years. Civil war and everyday violence prevented the development of reliable livelihoods, any sustainable development of the economy and infrastructure, and above all permanently undermined the ideal foundations of a functioning civil society. Even shortly after the signing of the peace treaty between FARC and President Santos, this is still clearly noticeable. Women who are systematically victims of sexual violence and structural injustice suffer from the patriarchal and brutal conditions of society.
Aid organizations are still rarely represented on site due to the fatal security situation. The Catholic Church is one of the few functioning organizations in Chocó and is recognized by all parties due to its neutrality. For years she has tried to help the people in Chocó regardless of their origin or religion.