"I wanted to get involved with a group, but a dance group. My friends told me to go with them to illegal groups, because they were offering wages and weapons training. I did not do it. Today, thanks to these recreational spaces, I work strongly training in dance and also preventing other children to join neither gangs nor illegal armed groups.” Testimony of beneficiary child.
In Colombia, violence against children is a serious problem and even if the media recorded permanently new cases making visible the efforts of society and the State to protect the rights and lives of the population, these not appear to be sufficient and figures are still on the rise.
From the Mi Sangre Foundation we have worked with the plausible aim to generate protective and friendly environments that allow the new generations to exercise their powers as peace builders. In this search we have been generating public awareness and mass use of specific calls to action for society in general.
Today we have been leading a campaign of mobilization and prevention of recruitment and use of underage children. Various public and private agents are part of this initiative: Institutions of the national Government - as the Vice-Presidency of the Republic, the Ministries of Education and Culture, the Colombian Institute of Family Welfare (ICBF), the Colombian Agency for Reintegration (ACR) and the Advocacy of the Nation – The civil society such as Antonio Restrepo Barco Foundation and the Norwegian Refugee Council - and the international cooperation - as the United States Agency for international development (USAID)The World Bank, UNICEF and the International Organization for Migration (IOM).
Sadly, the factors favoring violence against children and young people include domestic violence. These conflicts are generated by economic difficulties, consumption of drugs and alcohol by parents, and inconsistency between the rules they teach to their children and the ones they apply to themselves. These situations generate scenarios for psychological punishment, physical abuse, child labor since many of these children have to work to bring a living to their home, and in some cases, it arises commercial sexual exploitation by their own parents.
All of these situations, bearing in mind that Colombia is a country with an armed conflict that lasts for more than 50 years and where the child has become a victim of illegal recruitment, forces some children to seek alternative life, away from their homes, making them vulnerable to other scenarios of violence either in armed groups or gangs in urban areas.
83% of children and youngsters who have been in armed groups were victims of domestic violence; this figure confirms that the key reason for children being victims of recruitment by armed groups is their own family.
"Any child with lack of affection at home is vulnerable to join armed groups or gangs, whether in the countryside or in the city. Love at home heals everything, as parents we must support and listen to our children for them not to make the wrong decisions."
Juanes, artist and founder of Mi Sangre Foundation.
Protecting is the responsibility of all. You can build protective environments in your family... above we give you some recommendations.
"To dream is a right" campaign extends this invitation to society in general to link to this strategy, and to public entities so that they prioritize in their agendas the matters of child protection and prevention of recruitment.
Get involved http://yoprotejo.org/red-de-proteccion/
“We colored in, we laughed and we played...
my favorite part was when we painted the mural,
and that was when I could make my dream come true:
to be a painter”.
Carlos, 13 years old.
Caucasia, El Pando, Department of Antioquia.
The 12th of February was the International Day against the Use of Child Soldiers. Along with the Departmental Government of Antioquia and their Protective Environments program and the Municipal Council of Caucasia, we celebrated an event with the community that evoked the Right to Dream and the need to create and care for environments and spaces that protect the rights of children, adolescents and young people. Artistic and games-based activities were held to promote a culture of peace and the recognition of children and young people as agents of change.
According to the United Nations, more than 300,000 children actively participate in armed conflicts around the world. In Colombia, the illegal recruitment of child soldiers by armed groups is a crime under International Humanitarian Law.
As part of the International Day against the Use of Child Soldiers, Fundación Mi Sangre participated in the “Protective Environments” event, organized by the Secretariat of the Government of Antioquia and the Municipal Council of Caucasia.
During the event recreational and fun spaces were created in which more than 300 children participated in artistic and sporting activities. Fundación Mi Sangre coordinated the creation of a mural at the school in the village of El Pando, with a group of children painting their dreams as part of the artistic effort. Educational activities were also held such as the creation of posters, paintings, games, and other communication products, with the goal of promoting peaceful coexistence, respect, rights and to prevent violence.
Thanks to participation from the entire community, awareness was raised about the importance of strengthening protective environments for children and young people so that their rights are not violated by different forms of violence. These environments also allow for the sharing of moments of happiness and generate support networks. This event was part of Fundación Mi Sangre’s campaign to raise awareness, mobilize the community and prevent child recruitment, which is titled “To Dream is a Right”.
At the same time on the 12th of February, Fundación Mi Sangre, with the support of a range of government institutions, carried out a social media campaign on the same topic. This helped generate reflections and concrete actions against recruitment in the wider community.
Together with children, adolescents and young people in Caucasia, we said “I PROTECT.”
Working together we can all contribute to the construction of peace in Colombia. Because to dream is a right, as well as being an important part of the artistic process and social transformation.
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On the occasion of the World Day against the use of children in armed conflict, celebrated on February 12, the campaign "Soñar es un Derecho" and the PANDI Agency prepared a report on how domestic violence is one of the reasons why many children end up in the ranks of illegal armed groups.
Family as a protective entity of the rights of Children and Youngsters
In Colombia, violence against children is a serious problem and despite that media reports new cases permanently making visible the efforts of the society and the State to protect the rights and lives of this population, these may not be enough and figures continues to rise. Since 1996, with the study "Impact of Armed Conflict on Children," by Graça Machel (UN, 1996), draws the attention to this situation and highlights the serious effects on children’s lives.
The most worrying thing about this situation is that 84% of cases of violence occur inside the household.
Violence against children in their households happens because of a number of factors, conflicts generated by economic difficulties, consumption of drugs and alcohol by parents, and inconsistency between the rules they teach to their children and the ones they apply to themselves. These situations generate scenarios for psychological punishment, physical abuse, child labor since many of these children have to work to bring a living to their home, and in some cases, it arises commercial sexual exploitation by their own parents.
The reality seen through figures
During the last three years the violence figures against children and youngsters have no significant changes, year to year are held constant.
Violence by Omission
According to the Code for Children and Youngsters, society has a role of co-responsibility with children and a legal obligation to report any violation of their rights. Report to authorities is not a favor, it is an obligation. However, according to Legal Medicine Registration 70% of cases remain unreported. "This leads us to think that society does not care for its children. This is violence by omission. Families, uncles, cousins, neighbors, teachers and society in general remain silent and allow that damage continues to grow, "said Ximena Norato, Pandi Agency director, who also details the following figures.
We often hear stories of children and youngsters that suffer violence on the street. The majority of the times we ask ourselves, where is the family? Why this 12 year old child is alone in a park? This shows that parents are in the first position to influence early learning and protect and prevent their children from these situations.
The recruitment of children, one of the consequences of domestic violence
"I left home when I was 12 years old because I failed fifth grade at school and my mom was going to kill me ... I took my mule, at night I climbed a tree to avoid tigers, and when the guerrilla came, I went with them" says Esperanza, who acknowledges that domestic violence expelled her to the environment that should have been the safest par excellence, her home.
83% of children and youngsters who have been in armed groups were victims of domestic violence; this figure confirms that the key reason for children being victims of recruitment by armed groups is their own family. Other factors are school dropouts (25%), not being interested in studies, and because there was no place to play or to do recreational activities. 57% of them were working before joining an armed group and they were looking for better job opportunities of which 30% did so scraping coca.
The recruitment of children by illegal armed groups is a current reality. In different regions of the country, in rural and urban areas, thousands of children and youngsters live their days dodging the threat of organizations attending acts of violence, pressure and false promises, to force them to join their armies.
Constant complaints confirm the seriousness of the situation. Between January 2008 and June 2011, the Early Warning System of the people advocacy recorded 158 risk situations concerning the illegal recruitment of children. Meanwhile, the last year, some organizations and media have documented threats and cases of this war crime in municipalities of Antioquia, Cauca, Norte de Santander and Tolima, among other departments.
Between November 1999 and January 2013 the Colombian Family Welfare Institute, ICBF, attended 5.093 children in the Specialized Care Program to Children and Adolescents Removed from Illegal Armed Groups.
Call to Action
According to these alarming figures on child recruitment in Colombia, the next 12 of February on the occasion of the World Day against the use of children in war, through the action of
"immobilize your index finger" with a paper cylinder, the program "Soñar es un derecho" seeks to raise Colombian society awareness on the importance of creating protective environments for new generations to grow away from guns. This symbolic act is a sign of commitment with the creation of environments that protect Colombian children and youth from recruitment.
Art and culture, to escape from violence
"Who wields an instrument will not wield a gun ever, I want to change weapons for microphones, drug for brushes and instruments, I dream of teenagers leaving behind the bitterness that has carried for so many years and be free". Yara, 20 years Medellin
Through recreational and leisure spaces, children found pleasure for art and culture; this is where many of them begin to build their dreams in music, dance or writing.
The campaign “Soñar es un Derecho”, generate reflections and actions against the recruitment and other forms of violence thanks to the creation of youth spaces that contribute to the leadership of children, adolescents and young people. The campaign is being developed in 14 municipalities in the Colombian territory.
The campaign is driven by the U.S. Agency for International Development - USAID, Mi Sangre Foundation and the International Organization for Migration (IOM), with the participation of entities as the ICBF, the Committee interagency of fight against children and youngsters recruitment, the High Council for Reintegration, the World Bank, UNICEF, the Norwegian council, press and media, artists and many citizens committed to peace and reconciliation.
According to Andres Agudelo, psychologist of "PAZalobien" a program of Fundación Mi Sangre, "Through artistic spaces, teenagers are searching not only to find an opportunity to live together and solve conflicts, but also self-regulate, ie, acting without fear but being aware of what they do right or wrong. "
Juan, a 24 year old member of Hip Hop C15 group from Comuna 13 in Medellin, believes that, "Any young person who is related to art develops a special sensitivity. In the context where I am is relatively dangerous, all these artistic expressions make children and young people get excited and they want to get involved, many see that we are doing something good and want to be part of it. "
"What we have to achieved through our social programs which promote social and recreational areas for children, is that our children have a life plan that allows them to dream and be supported by their families," says Diego Molano, Director of the Colombian Family Welfare Institute (ICBF).
A new alternative about parenting
Families play a critical role preventing their children get involved in scenes of violence through art. "Parents may think that young people are wasting their time, but families must understand that these are areas of violence prevention, is the opportunity to develop their own identity, imaginary new leadership, spending free time properly in order to have a sense of belonging and feel protected, " reflects Catalina Cock, Executive Director of Mi Sangre Foundation.
The family is the educational core par excellence and as a child’s first teachers, parents are in the first position to influence early learning. Indeed, family environment is a propitious space to share and promote strengthening bonds, good behaviors, and use of free time through culture, art, sport etc.
“I believe that violence starts at home, for example, if one finds out the bad people that today exist in the country, they did not have loving parents, we may not have much money but if we have a lot of love everything will go well. If someone is hit and abused throughout his or her childhood, when this person grows up, he or she will only know of violence and is going to get back at others who go on his or her way. I see that here in Cartagena women have children very young without knowing much of life, before having children, one has to stop being a child”
Kristian, Cartagena, Bolivar, 18 years old.
Mi Sangre Foundation beyond support and protection of children´s dreams, it invites their parents to accompany them, and through these spaces are woven ties between fathers and mothers, educational institutions and youth groups and building and strengthening networks of support and protection. This will prevent the children to be involved in violent situations and find a new alternative of life.
Likewise, “Sonar es un Derecho” Campaign invites society to join this strategy and public organizations to keep children protection and recruitment prevention as a priority in their agendas.
"Never stop dreaming, define what you want in life and do it, this is my philosophy, I believe the world can change, but only if adults understand that children cannot go to war, instead they should grow in peace . Many parents believe that young people grow in peace due to hard work, but it is also important to read us tales, kiss us, ask us for our dreams and most importantly, help us realize them. "Yineth Chavez, Carmen de Bolivar, Bolivar, 13 years
"Any child with lack of affection at home is vulnerable to join armed groups or gangs, whether in the countryside or in the city. Love at home heals everything, as parents we must support and listen to our children for them not to make the wrong decisions." Juanes, artist and founder of Mi Sangre Foundation.
"Where we are together is our home"
On Saturday November 24, the Mi Sangre Foundation conducted the PICNIC Soñar es un derecho in the Library Park Manuel Mejía Vallejo in the 16th commune of Medellin. The activities were framed in the awareness, mobilization and prevention campaign of recruitment of children and young people.
The lush greenery of the Library Park Guayabal, sunny day and the different artistic and cultural events, allowed more than 500 people from Medellín and other municipalities in Antioquia could enjoy a family day.
Art, love and game were the perfect ingredients for an evening of creativity, culture and fun. From 8am to 5pm children and young people gathered and enjoyed recreational activities and performances of circus, theater and music.
This meeting would not have been possible without the active participation of mothers, without the smiles of children, much less without the magic and creativity of young people trained in Education for Peace.
"If there is dialogue and love our life is more pleasant" This was the best learning and the best memory there is of the smiles, the colors and tranquility we experienced in the Soñar es un derecho PICNIC.
Thanks to the Scout Association of Colombia – Antioquia regional-, the space remained clean, safe, quiet, and each attendee was active and participating in all activities without problems.
We welcome the active participation of mothers and parents, teachers and children in educational institutions and artistic groups, young people from youth groups from Urabá, Cocorná, Ituango, Granada, San Francisco and San Luis.
We thank the Colombian Family Welfare Institute-ICBF-, the city of Medellin, Metrojuventud, Park System Libraries, goverment of Antioquia, Coca Cola-Femsa and Copelia in the help of this meeting.
Because DREAM IS A RIGHT, among all we protect the children and youth of various conflicts, thanks for joining us and say: I protect.
"Peace, peace, shouting gangs,downloading hip hop rhymes in the corners and not be heard over the bullets,bit just pure energy,cease-fire elements of rapthis is a cry for peaceno more warship hop is sponsoring usour voices through the speakers sound like carbines.Caicedo our home alleys in the nose and cornerspass over bullets bulletsdeath coming back and forthjoin our fine cultureweapons asideour weapons are the rhymesjoin here is the medicineRed Zone clan operates as mine"Lyrics of the songs written by Zaka
Victor Ortiz or better known as Zaka, as he prefers, is an MC, cultural promoter and dreamer who for more than five years has been working for the community housed in commune 8 of Medellin.For Victor's love is passion, respect and understanding. He was born in this city of eternal spring, steep streets, high contrast, which inhabit the love and fear, and that has witnessed our largest reservoir of hope, youth.Zaka lives in a neighborhood with invisible barriers but prefers not to talk about it and focus on what's good about his community: the cultural effervescence, the passion with which we live, that vital drives to grow and the hope that smells on every corner and look of a child.He is chairman of the Corporation of Hip Hop Evolution and Art and leader of the Red Crew Territory Strategist 8.9, which brings together ten youth organizations that are part of the Education for Peace project, PAZalobien, of Mi Sangre.The network is a joint, from art, two areas separated by invisible barriers. Zaka and the other leaders, artists and managers of life, do the impossible to surpass, especially for the little ones that are not afraid to cross a street and go play with their friends.He is convinced that art can change the world and with hip hop will alienate many young people from violence and drug addiction. "Hip-hop to me is peace, a tool for inner transformation to humans, is freedom of expression and binding"Victor was born into a loving family. Although in 1999 his father was murdered, by this senseless violence in Colombia that has taken our loved ones, he still lives in his heart "is my angel, I ask him to help me get ahead, to accompany me, protect me and harbors me in its wings"His mother Luz Dary is a housewife and has given him the best to Victor and his brother, who is being trained as a professional footballer, like many other young people of the San Antonio neighborhood.Since childhood, with his friends dreamed of becoming a singer, her childhood was to play and study, and although he was not the best for it, showed his skills as an actor, singer and player.The starkness of the conflict forces him to live bad times: many of his childhood friends has gone down, but he also knows the hip-hop, "a scent that spreads full of dancers, aerosols, a culture with few followers whom they considered insane but there I found a way to vent, have fun and follow a dream that felt frustrated. Thanks to the culture of Hip-hop understood that dreams do not fail, which can be realized if you put heart and fight for them."Zaka teaches children and young people alternatives to violence, such as music or hip-hop, lyrical effect with more weapons, and most importantly, it demonstrates that there is always an option other than war that love is a choice and friendship, hope."My only weapon is the rhymes. I will continue with my story until I forget because you die when you forget. I am proud of who I am: a rapper lifelong fight for your dreams, live in a better world."
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