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Colombia Diary from our Colombia Director, Natalia Ucrós

Read our Colombia Director Natalia’s blog about a learning meeting she attended alongside organisations from the UK and South Africa as a part of our Comic Relief project.

Our project aims to protect girls and young women involved, or at risk of becoming involved, in gangs. The programme is designed to enable organisations from across the world to exchange their knowledge and experience of working on issues related to gang violence and the shared challenges they face.

“In June I participated in the second learning meeting of Comic Relief’s ‘I Define Me’ programme, which we are part of with our partners Tiempo de Juego and Albergue Infantil, alongside other organisations from Colombia, the UK and South Africa. This 3-year programme seeks to protect girls and young women involved, or at risk of becoming involved, in gangs. It has a strong emphasis on learning because worldwide very little is known about the impact of gangs on women and girls’ lives. 

Eighteen months into the project, we aimed to share experiences in terms of project design, implementation and effectiveness. We also shared significant findings so far. 

It was fascinating to discover that the situations the projects face are very similar, even though we’re in different countries. We all have difficulties getting cooperation from key institutions, although I was surprised that the police prove more cooperative than schools. Another shared problem is ensuring the safety of the project team – working with groups of troubled young women accustomed to violence can be a risk. 

It was also great to learn how the different projects manage to draw the girls in. One London based project manages to do it rapidly by giving support in moments of crisis when young women are admitted to hospital; our project does it through play and by helping girls discover their individuality, as distinct from their gang identity; but it is always by creating an emotional link with the project. 

I loved seeing how all the projects are working to recognise the talents of these young women, who are usually only seen as problems. I’m very proud to be part of a network of organisations that is constantly learning about how to change families, schools and communities so that, through the work of the girls themselves, they really can become more caring environments.”

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