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Breaking the silence: Colombian youth unite against gender-based violence and exploitation

In Colombia, gender-based violence and sexual exploitation are big issues that are little spoken of.

Children and youth who’ve been displaced by poverty or civil unrest can all too easily be lured into the sex trade in tourist centres, while girls and women face regular threats to their safety.

Through the Because I am a Girl project, Plan is encouraging the people of Colombia to raise their voices and shatter the stigma surrounding these important issues. With the help of our generous donors and partners, we’re funding innovative programs that inform adolescents of their rights and empower them to foster awareness, open dialogue, and help break the cycle of violence.

Two smiling Colombian girls.

“There are many cases of abuse that we’ve found out about because of these programs”, said Maria, a local campaign leader. “After talks, people approach us, somewhat timidly, but the important thing is that at least that kind of situation is now seen as something that is not right.”

Here are a few examples of how we’ve engaged youth, positively impacting their lives and making a difference in their communities:

  • A group of girls and boys living in shelters for exploited children collaborated with nationally-renowned musician Louis Tower to write and produce a song condemning gender-based violence. This song is now being broadcast by radio stations across the country (you can hear the song in the video below!)

“For me it has been a great experience to learn music and to put what we learned in the workshop on rights and gender into practice.” – Boy from the shelter involved in the collaborative music project

  • As part of the Neither Bought Nor Sold campaign, more than 26,000 people took part in information sessions and community demonstrations, that saw the distribution of 14,000 flyers and 9,000 wristbands

“Participating is cool because we can achieve many things for ourselves and society. I like to participate because I can help, but more than that, because I realize I have qualities and capacities.” – Girl from Cartenga

  • Two mass youth bicycle rides took place through tourist areas, raising awareness about the importance of preventing the sexual exploitation of children

“Our main goal is to sensitize different communities, schools and youth organizations so that they become aware of how much exploitation hurts, and the importance of protecting us,” said one of the event’s young female cyclists.

  • Youth media groups were created to support youth-produced short films –many are now being viewed at schools, shelters and community centres.

“This process has made us see the Mayor’s office as not just an unreachable place or a place where only important or very educated people can enter, because as regular citizens, we are responsible for exercising advocacy and holding institutions accountable,” said one 16-year-old female member of the Youth Consultative Roundtable

Voices raised

Take a moment to meet some of the children we’re working with in Colombia, while listening to the song they wrote and produced with local musician Louis Tower, in collaboration with Plan’s local partner (the Renacer Foundation). The video features photos from the music project, as well as our youth media initiatives, and local outreach events at schools and community centres.

This project receives financial support from the Government of Canada through Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development (DFATD).