Making communities safer for children
Violence and armed conflict threaten the welfare and security of many children in Colombia. To date over 6 million people have been forced to flee their homes as a result of Colombia's internal conflict, approximately half of them children. These children and their families are often traumatised, having witnessed or been victims of physical, psychological and sexual violence.
Violence in Bogota, Cali, Cartagena and Buenaventura
A 2013 survey of 124,209 school children in Bogota found that 23% had experienced violence or threats of violence during the month before taking part in the survey alone.
In Cali, the number of gangs on record increased from 10 in 1992 to 134 in 2012, and it is estimated that 17 of the 22 comunas of the city have at least 1 gang controlling their streets, most of which are linked to the country's illegal armed groups.
In Cartagena, 90 gangs were identified in 2013. These gangs have daily confrontations on the streets, fighting with stones, knives, and guns, and terrorising local residents.
Buenaventura, where Children Change Colombia began working in 2015, has become a battleground for Colombia's powerful illegal armed groups, who control the movements of the city's residents, recruit children and young people, and are known for brutally dismembering those who cross them. During 2013 alone, violence caused over 13,000 residents of the city to flee their homes.
Risks for children
For children and their families alike, being surrounded by these high levels of violence leaves emotional and physical scars that are difficult to erase. These scars can affect their ability to make friends and to concentrate in school. Being exposed to violence increases the risk that children will turn to violence as a normal response to conflict, or a legitimate way to achieve their goals.
Children also become more vulnerable to other violences - for instance domestic violence has been found to be the biggest risk factor for children in Colombia being recruited by illegal armed groups, and children who experience violence are more likely to abuse drugs and alcohol.
What is Children Change Colombia doing?
Children Change Colombia is helping our local partners to make communities safer places for children to grow up. Our partners have developed programmes that include keeping children off the streets and away from violence by providing them with safe spaces to play during the half of the day they are not in school, helping children and families to identify risks in their community and understand how to keep themselves safe from them, helping children and adults to learn about peaceful ways to resolve conflict, and supporting young people to become active agents of change in their community, engaging with other community members and creating a community that is safer for everyone.
Our partners working to make communities safer for children are: