FARC & Government Reach A Peace Deal — Here's What Life Is Like For Female Fighters

Photo: Federico Rios.
Update: The Colombian government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) finally reached a peace deal after four years of negotiation.

The historic agreement means that the 52-year-old conflict that killed over 220,000 and displaced more than 5 million is finally over, Reuters reported. FARC fighters will disarm and reintegrate to civilian life.

A plebiscite vote regarding the deal will be held in October.

The agreement is "the beginning of the end to the suffering, pain, and tragedy of war," said President Juan Manuel Santos, according to the BBC.

Ahead, a look into the lives of FARC's female fighters.
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This article was originally published on June 24, 2016.

It has been the single longest running civil war in the Western Hemisphere.

For 52 years, the conflict between the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and the Colombian government has impacted the entire country, displacing about 5.7 million people and leaving over 220,000 people dead.

But history was made on Thursday when a cease-fire agreement was signed in Havana, Cuba, after almost four years of negotiations between the armed group and the government. Women played a crucial role throughout the negotiation process, according to the U.N. Women's organization.

"As we celebrate this new step and look forward to the journey ahead, let us not forget the sacrifice and effort of Colombian women, and the importance that their leadership and participation must have in the final stage of this peace process and the implementation of all agreements," Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, executive director of U.N. Women, said in a statement.

Colombian photographer Federico Rios spent time documenting the life of the women in the FARC, who compose about 30% of the armed group’s forces. The FARC is the single largest leftist guerrilla group in the country.

The most interesting thing to Rios was that gender seemed to play less of a role in how fighters spent their days.

"I feel that in [the] FARC, they are seen and treated as equals. Men and women cook, wash clothes, and fight in the front line, just as equals," he said.

Ahead, Rios shares his photos and the stories of these female fighters with Refinery29.

Editor's note: Captions were provided by Rios and have been edited for clarity. Some of the fighters Rios interviewed use pseudonyms.
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Photo: Federico Rios.
"Edward," one of the commanders of the FARC's 57th Front helps his partner "Fany" to properly wear the camouflage uniform. Edward and Fany met each other in the ranks of the FARC, and now they are couple.
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Photo: Federico Rios.
Instructions are given to troops throughout the day. The guerrillas come from a mix of races, social classes, and genders. It is easy to find a mix of academics from the universities, farmers from different regions, and indigenous people in the same group, speaking, sharing, laughing, and working together.
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Photo: Federico Rios.
After a morning bath, "Emerald" combs her hair while seated on her makeshift bed.
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Photo: Federico Rios.
During the weekly cleaning of weapons, "Mariana" looks through her machine gun tube to check that it's free of impurities.
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Photo: Federico Rios.
"Fany" cleans her weapon using a toothbrush to remove all the mud collected in the long walks through the dirt paths.
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Photo: Federico Rios.
The FARC sleep in makeshift beds. Their camps are assembled in minutes, and they typically stay in them for a maximum of two nights before moving to another location. This mobility is crucial to their safety and survival.
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Photo: Federico Rios.
FARC members bathe in the river to clean themselves from the sweat from working, and the heat and humidity of the jungle. They travel to the nearest river in small groups and wash their clothing there, too.
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Photo: Federico Rios.
Mariana has been in the ranks of the FARC for more than five years. She walks from the river where she was taking a bath wearing only her bra. As a woman, she feels there is a deep respect for sexual individuality.
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Photo: Federico Rios.
Much of the land utilized by the FARC is inaccessible to anyone else because of the danger associated with being a combat zone. For years, the FARC have traveled in what might be considered the most impressive landscapes of Colombia. They are areas rich with natural wealth and mineral resources.
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Photo: Federico Rios.
After many hours of walking in the rain forest, the guerrillas arrive at an indigenous community. They were asked to review complaints from the community about the paramilitary presence in this territory.
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Photo: Federico Rios.
Most of the time FARC members use camouflage clothing, but when they are closer to towns or villages, they change into casual outfits to minimize the impact on other people.
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Photo: Federico Rios.
Brenda is one of the leaders of the front. She rests in civilian clothes in a small room in the village. She says she feels secure knowing that she has the protection of the small farming community in Chocó.
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Photo: Federico Rios.
After a long day of walking in the rain, guerrilla members rest. They speak about their dreams of how life will be after the negotiation with the government.
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