Department or Program

International Relations

Title of Approved Individual Major

International Relations-Political Science

Primary Wellesley Thesis Advisor

Christopher Candland

Additional Advisor(s)

William A. Joseph


In December 2015, supported by the Schiff fellowship, I traveled to Colombia to interview recently demobilized female FARC guerillas participating in state reintegration programs. Estimates suggest that 40% of the combatants in Colombia’s decades-long conflict are women. However, the complex role that women have played has largely been overlooked. Much of the literature on conflict resolution assumes a dichotomy in which women are either ‘victims’ or ‘perpetrators.’ In reality, the distinction between these absolute categories is never entirely clear. The purpose of my trip was to examine women’s particular experiences as combatants, looking at the circumstances that led them to join the FARC, the roles they played within the organization, and their transition back into mainstream society. My research reveals that there is no easy distinction between victims and perpetrators in the conflict, as the majority of female combatants describe an ambiguous experience in which coercion and consent, empowerment and abuse coexist in uneasy and tenuous relationships.