Gimena Sánchez-Garzoli is the leading Colombia human rights advocate at the Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA). Ms. Sánchez is an expert on peace and illegal armed groups, internally displaced persons, human rights and ethnic minority rights. Her work has shed light on the situation of Colombia’s more than seven million internally displaced persons—as well as help expose the links between Colombia’s government and drug-funded paramilitaries. She is active in promoting labor rights and implementation of the U.S.-Colombia Labor Action Plan. In November 2012 the Colombian Senate presented WOLA with a human rights award for making a significant contribution towards advancing labor rights in recognition of Ms. Sánchez’s work. She’s received numerous awards for her work on behalf of ethnic minorities including in 2014 by the DC Mayor’s Office and 2015 the Catholic Diocesis of Quibdó.
Ms. Sánchez has contributed to and published numerous reports, articles and book chapters. Among them is Far Worse than Watergate, co-authored by Ms. Sánchez, documents the widespread abuse of power by Colombia’s presidential intelligence agency, DAS. She has worked with a coalition to shift U.S. funds for Colombia from military assistance to economic assistance. She has worked for greater recognition of Afro-Colombian and indigenous community rights and advocated placing conditions on U.S. assistance to protect these rights. Ms. Sánchez is frequently called upon by universities and other institutions to speak on internally displaced persons and Colombian issues. Ms. Sánchez regularly appears in media outlets. She served as columnist for Actualidad Étnica from 2004-2010 and was facilitated PBS’s production of ‘The War We Are Living” episode of the series Women, War & Peace focused on Afro-Colombian women activists in northern Cauca.
In 2012, she spent a sabbatical as a guest researcher with the Norwegian Peacebuilding Resource Centre (NOREF), where she wrote “Stopping Irreparable Harm: Acting on Colombia’s Afro-Colombian and Indigenous Communities Protection Crisis.”
Prior to joining WOLA in 2006, Ms. Sánchez worked for the protection of human rights organizations and peace communities in Colombia with Peace Brigades International. From 1999-2004, she was Senior Research Analyst at the Brookings Institution-Johns Hopkins/SAIS Project on Internal Displacement, supporting the work of the Representative of the U.N. Secretary General on Internally Displaced Persons, Francis M. Deng (South Sudan). In this position, she advocated for the rights of internally displaced persons in Latin America, Asia, Africa and the South Caucasus. She also founded and ran the SAIS Refugee Forum.
Ms. Sánchez has worked on human rights issues at various organizations, including the U.S. Committee for Refugees (USCR), American Red Cross, United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) and New York City Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs. She also served as a volunteer in camps for Guatemalan refugees in Mexico and for persons displaced by Hurricane Katrina. She’s served on the Board of AFRODES USA now AFRODES International since 2004 and UNIAFRO since 2016.
Originally from Argentina, Ms. Sánchez’ family was displaced during that country’s civil war, fled to Europe, and subsequently moved to the United States. Ms. Sánchez holds a Masters’ Degree in International Law and International Economics from Johns Hopkins School for Advanced International Studies (SAIS) and a BA in Environmental Science and Dance from Columbia University’s Barnard College.