What These Female Guerrilla Fighters Carry Into The Jungle

Photo: Federico Rios
For five decades, Colombia's military and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, an armed guerrilla group better known as the FARC, have been engaged in one of the world's longest-running civil conflicts.

But unlike in many bloody wars across the globe, women have been on the front lines. They're estimated to make up about 30% of the group's fighting force.

"Women do everything, they don't have different roles than men," Colombian documentary photographer Federico Rios told Refinery29. "They are leaders, fighters, dreamers, and FARC members."

Rios spent weeks embedded in the FARC's jungle camps, meeting female commanders and soldiers. His goal was to "photograph the human condition, the daily life."

One result of his work was a series of photos showing what female soldiers carry with them in their bags. In addition to guns, radios, and GPS equipment, Rios found that the women packed everyday necessities and the comforts of home, like perfumes and makeup.

Many of those female guerrillas hope they will soon be able to unpack those belongings for good, as peace talks between the group and the government enter their third year. But negotiations aimed at bringing an end to the conflict that has left more than 220,000 people dead and millions more more displaced have stalled in recent months.

"All FARC members, men and women, hope for the signing of an agreement with the Colombian government soon," Rios said.

Ahead, Rios' powerful photos women fighting in the FARC and the things they carry into combat.
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Photo: Federico Rios
Katherine, 20, Seven Years With FARC
Shoots An AK-223 Norinco


Katherine is the youngest of five brothers, all guerrilla fighters. Katherine’s 9-month-old daughter lives outside the guerrilla camps with her grandmother. Katherine gave birth in a small town through the help of a traditional midwife. She is also nurse and works with the FARC medical team.
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Photo: Federico Rios
Katherine's backpack and AK-223 Norinco.
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Photo: Federico Rios
Mariana, 24, Five Years With FARC
Shoots An AK-47

Mariana was victim of paramilitary violence in northern Colombia. She joined the FARC shortly after her 20th birthday. She carries cigarettes, but is kept from smoking after dark because of the light they emit.
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Photo: Federico Rios
Mariana's backpack and gun.
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Photo: Federico Rios
Marcela, 18, Two Years With FARC
Shoots An AK-47

Marcela is indigenous, from the Embera community, and joined the FARC after a paramilitary siege on her territory. She is a radio operator and carries a lot of weight for the troop. In her backpack is a computer, radio, and batteries, alongside shampoo, creams, and perfumes.
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Photo: Federico Rios
Marcela's backpack and AK-47 rifle
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Photo: Federico Rios
Brenda, 31, 15 Years With FARC
Shoots An R9 Rifle & Five-Seven Pistol

Brenda is a commander with the FARC. She utilizes a rifle and a pistol, known as a cop killer, as well as a computer assigned for intelligence missions. Her boyfriend is also a member of the FARC. She always has space in her backpack for perfumes. Her rank utilizes a GPS with confidential information.
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Photo: Federico Rios
Brenda's belongings, including a R9 rifle and a pendant.
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Photo: Federico Rios
Glodis, 33, 19 Years With FARC
Shoots An M-15 rifle

Among her possessions, Glodis has glazes, makeup, colored pencils, a radio, and a brush to wash clothes.
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Photo: Federico Rios
Glodis' belongings include a brush she uses to wash her clothes.
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