"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.
- Illegal recruitment of underage children for use in armed conflict is a crime in Colombia punished by International Humanitarian Law. However, this problem has found a paved way in households where children suffer domestic violence.
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.
- We always have to be alert with what our children are doing. Know what, where and with who our children are. Signals that they have money or new things without explanation must be warnings for us to find out help in family, community and institutional support networks so that we will prevent our children to go to armed groups.
- Armed groups employ increasingly novel strategies of “seduction” offering clothing, cell phones, money, video games etc.
- We have to be very creative in raising our children. Give them love, care, prevent risks are protective factors against this problem.
"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/