Healing for Sexual Violence Survivors in Colombia

by MADRE, An International Women's Human Rights Org.
Healing for Sexual Violence Survivors in Colombia

Taller de Vida (TdV) is a community-based organization run by a team of psychologists, educational social workers, and volunteers who support the healing, social rehabilitation, and power building of former child soldiers and young women and girl survivors of sexual and gender-based violence within the context of the Colombian armed conflict. Through the power of art therapy, creative workshops, human rights education, and practical skills training, TdV is helping youth and communities recover from violence and providing them the tools to become actors of peace and contribute to the building of non-violent social conditions in Colombia.

MADRE began supporting TdV in 2002 to support the demobilization and reintegration process of child soldiers recruited by armed actors in the conflict. As the peace process implementation moves forward, TdV works to advance Indigenous and Afro-descendant peoples’ meaningful participation at the local and national level to ensure that collective rights, gender and racial justice, and other pertinent guarantees are upheld. 

With your support, MADRE and TdV are working to build the recognition of persecution based on gender in the context of the decades-long conflict—including gender and racial/ethnic persecution against Indigenous and Afro-descendant peoples—with the aim of ensuring meaningful access and inclusion in the appropriate reparations in the transitional justice process.

As we have seen with partners around the world, when women’s community based-solutions are centered in the transitional justice process, communities are able to come together to collectively heal and bring about long-term solutions for social change and peacebuilding. As a result, women and girls are breaking the silence in their communities around conflict-related and gender-based violence to build solidarity, empathy, and healing practices that break cycles of violence. 

Thank you for showing your solidarity and support to women and girls in Colombia as they advance their rights and create restorative spaces for healing. 

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Thanks to your continued support, MADRE has been able to hold perpetrators of gender-based violence accountable in Colombia. This is a major victory for women and LGBTIQ+ people who are survivors of armed conflict. For the first time in Colombia’s history, its government charged perpetrators with committing a crime against humanity on the basis of gender. This is only the second time ever that this charge has been successfully issued in a court successfully charged in a tribunal. The first charge was in the International Criminal Court last year, also thanks to MADRE’s advocacy efforts. 

Specifically, the Colombian government has charged high-ranking army commanders with "gender persecution" in a case involving the murder of a gay man and nine women during the country's armed conflict. The significance of this is that the charges include crimes against both women and LGBTIQ+ persons as well as charges for violations of reproductive rights (as one of the murdered women was pregnant). 

This meaningful outcome is the direct result of MADRE's work to ensure that gender discrimination is recognized as a basis for crimes against humanity. It reflects our efforts alongside partners over the last two years to educate Colombian stakeholders on what gender persecution is and why it's critical. 

We still have to win the case, but the charges are a milestone. Our partners there are counting on us to join them in their pursuit of justice for women, girls, and LGBTIQ+ people who are targeted for violence by armed groups because of their gender. 

This win comes on the heels of Francia Márquez’s election as the country’s first Black Vice President. Francia is part of MADRE’s partner organization, Proceso de Comunidades Negras.We are excited about all that Francia’s leadership will mean for social justice in Colombia, including new opportunities for power-building by Black communities.

Your dedication to uplifting our partners enables us to support women and girls leading the way toward lasting change in their local communities and around the world. Thank you for being part of the MADRE community.

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In Colombia, with your support, MADRE and Taller de Vida (TdV) promote peace and healing among Indigenous and Afro-descendant communities impacted by conflict. TdV works to prevent armed recruitment of youth through their ‘Promoting Healing and Transitional Justice for Women and Girls in Colombia’ project. 

This effort has supported 1,600 Afro-descendant and Indigenous youth in different communities across Colombia to submit “Quarantine Stories” about their personal experiences during the pandemic, facilitate dialogue, and implement new ways of interaction that help young people and their families develop joint actions through virtual communication. An additional 430 young people shared their “Quarantine Stories” on social media platforms to inspire other youth to create narratives highlighting their resilience to confront pandemic-related stress and trauma they have faced among communities affected by the ongoing conflict. 

Daisy, a young Afro-Colombian activist, credits her participation in TdV’s programming for helping her gain confidence and access opportunities to heal. She says, “TdV’s projects have a very valuable impact on the community. Girls, like myself, who have been historically denied opportunities and lacked the space and resourcing to express themselves and help them to get out of difficult situations are able to count on receiving all of this support and more when they join TdV."

Stories like Daisy’s continue to be an invaluable resource in proving how successful TdV’s methodology is in providing Indigenous and Afro-descendant women and girls with the resources they need to facilitate their healing and advocate for inclusive peace, justice, and accountability in their communities and for themselves, as they build their lives anew. 

Thanks to your generous support, TdV has continued to adapt and replicate this methodology and share their learnings with other organizations. Notably, they have garnered national and international recognition for their expertise and meaningful engagement in transitional justice and advocacy for peace in Colombia's most conflict-affected communities. 

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Taller de Vida
Taller de Vida

Last month, MADRE and Taller de Vida (TdV) honored the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination by uplifting the voices of Indigenous and Afro-Colombian girls and young women through a virtual call to action, which we are pleased to share with you in the link below. In their testimonials, youth activists shared their experiences with racial injustice, stigma, and other challenges they face as Afro-Descendant and Indigenous girls and young women and how they are working to confront structural discrimination and inequality in their marginalized communities.

For example, Andrea, an Afro-Descendant girl who participates in TdV’s youth programming, told the story of the time she overheard a woman ask community pool staff, in reference to Andrea, why Afro-descendent Colombians are allowed to swim in the same area as white Colombians. After participating in TdV’s human rights trainings and self-esteem-building activities, Andrea had the confidence to confront the pool-goer and staff member about the racist comment. However, Andrea left the community pool feeling racially discriminated against and questioning why her skin color might bar her access to a community space all youth should be able to enjoy. With TdV’s support, Andrea continues to call for an end to discrimination in solidarity with her peers Luisa, Leidy, Anna Celly, and Yurleisy so that girls and other youth can live a life free of the stigma they experience.

With your support, MADRE and TdV are fostering a generation of Indigenous and Afro-Colombian girls who are ready to combat discrimination, reclaim their human rights, and build a more peaceful future.


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With ongoing support from MADRE, Taller de Vida (TdV) continues to leverage the power of psychosocial support and human rights education to foster healing for former child soldiers and survivors of sexual and gender-based violence in Colombia. This work is more important than ever as Afro-descendant and Indigenous youth and their communities continue to face the devastating impacts of ongoing violence, as well as economic precarity and the COVID-19 pandemic

Your support enables TdV to provide critical safe spaces and services needed to create dialogue that helps young people and their families develop joint actions to build more resilient communities. This past year, for example, TdV used Zoom and other technology resourced by MADRE to create more than thirty “Life Stories,” wherein children used audio messages with pictures to share how they have been impacted by conflict, displacement, and the pandemic. Through this work, Afro-descendant and Indigenous youth processed trauma and channeled their experiences to fuel their activism, preserving historical memory and working to raise awareness of and prevent further violence in their communities. These efforts created much-needed, open and safe spaces for youth and their families to contend and heal from the converging challenges they have experienced.

Together, we enabled TdV to advance vital support services amidst crisis. We’re grateful to you for making this life-saving work possible!

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Organization Information

MADRE, An International Women's Human Rights Org.

Location: New York, NY - USA
Facebook: Facebook Page
Twitter: @madrespeaks
Project Leader:
Yifat Susskind
New York , NY United States
$4,000 raised of $5,000 goal
122 donations
$1,000 to go
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