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World Indigenous Peoples’ Day 2019

On 9th August, we celebrated International Day of the World’s Indigenous People.

There are over 100 different indigenous groups in Colombia today, speaking 64 languages and making up 3.5% of the country’s population. But at least half of these groups are at risk of cultural and even physical extinction – 35 groups have a population of less than 200 people.

 With 40% of Colombia's indigenous pouplation aged 15 and under, young indigenous Colombians hold the key to their communities’ survival.

With our partner Casa Amazonia we are working in rural Putumayo with children from various indigenous groups, including the Awa, Kofan and Kichwa. As part of our project, which aims to build children’s resilience to the armed conflict that continues to affect their communities, we are encouraging children to re-engage with their groups’ healing and artistic traditions. For instance, games, music, dances, mandalas, sweat lodges and the ‘Healing Labyrinth’.

A mandala - a designing and making this symbol of healing brings children and adults together. 

When Casa Amazonia ran the Healing Labyrinth activity recently, they decided to run separate sessions for boys and girls because they had noted that the children tended to get embarrassed about discussing their emotions in front of peers of the opposite sex. They noted the different lessons learnt by the two groups.

The girls
The girls reported that the activity, which draws on indigenous healing traditions, helped to strengthen their identity as indigenous women and appreciate the importance that their culture places on women’s wisdom and skills (which has been eclipsed by ‘macho’ cultural and societal norms). They told Casa Amazonia that they felt inspired to pursue their life goals with enthusiasm and a greater sense of purpose. This sense of purpose and self-worth is a key protective factor for these young women – when girls begin to believe themselves to be deserving of a fulfilling future, and not subservient to men, they will take action to protect themselves, demand equal opportunities to boys, and speak out when they feel at risk.

The boys
The boys’ group was able to overcome their tendency to lack concentration and all the participants expressed their feelings to the group, although many of them said that doing so “felt strange”. Afterwards, they reported that the activity had taught them how to concentrate their minds, and had shown them the importance of being self-aware and able to recognise their problems, as a precursor to working out how to resolve them. This is an important lesson, as society has taught them that males should not show their emotions, which can lead to bottled up emotions manifesting in anger and aggression. In the context of Putumayo, this type of behaviour increases the risk of young men becoming involved in the armed groups which are a regular presence in their communities.


You can read more about our work with Casa Amazonia, and make a donation to help it to continue, here.

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