Celia Umenza Velasco

Ms. Celia Umenza Velasco is a leader of the largest Indigenous group in Colombia, the Nasa People, from the northern Cauca region of Colombia, one of the zones most affected by the armed conflict. She is a member of Cxhab Wala Kiwe, which means “Great People’s Territory” in the Nasa Yuwe language, also known as ACIN (Association of Indigenous Councils of the North of Cauca), and is a former Coordinator of Tejido Mujer (Women’s Weave), an organization of Indigenous women that is part of ACIN and works to promote their survival, autonomy and self-determination. Before this, she was the first woman Coordinator of the Indigenous Guard of ACIN, an unarmed civilian defense mechanism for the security and protection of Indigenous peoples that has stood up to armed groups for generations. In 2020, the Indigenous Guard of Cauca won the Front Line Defenders Regional Award of the Americas for human rights defenders at risk. In 2020, Ms. Umenza Velasco was the subject of an Al Jazeera Close Up film spotlighting Colombia’s Indigenous land defenders.

Photo: Luis Robayo AFP

At the Security Council

Ms. Celia Umenza Velasco was selected to represent civil society at the UN Security Council Open Debate on Women, Peace and Security in October 2021. She spoke in her capacity as an Indigenous leader, Legal Coordinator for the Indigenous Reservation of Tacueyó and member of ACIN (Association of Indigenous Councils of the North of Cauca), and on behalf of the NGO Working Group on Women, Peace and Security.