Colombia: Paza la Paz - A step towards peace

Education for socially and economically disadvantaged young people in slums of Colombia. With the Horyzon programme, YMCA Colombia supports young people in developing healthy, self-determined and peaceful life perspectives.

Background and Programme Context

The Colombian population still suffers from more than 50 years of conflict between the government, paramilitaries, guerrillas and criminal organizations. According to official figures, about 220,000 people have been killed and another 6 million were forced to flee. The displaced people are gathering around the big cities in slums, where especially the young people lack any perspective. Poverty, lack of jobs and training places, crime, poor health conditions and exclusion from political processes lead young people to join armed groups. To break this cycle, YMCA Colombia is active in these slums with the Horyzon programme.

Despite the peace treaty signed in 2016 between the Colombian government and the FARC guerrillas, the situation for large parts of the population has not improved. The government and the army have not yet been able to fill the vacuum created by demobilization. Accordingly, various criminal groups are now fighting for supremacy. This has led to a renewed increase in cases of murder and violent displacement in some regions. Human rights activists and leaders of social groups are particularly threatened.

The recent developments in Colombia represent both an opportunity and an increased need for the programme. The mostly young ex-guerrillas must be given an alternative way of life. Otherwise there is a high probability that they will set up criminal groups on their own, as happened when other armed groups disbanded.

Target Groups

Every year, around 1'500 young people aged between 14 and 28 from the poorest social classes benefit directly from the programme. Of these, approximately 180 are trained annually as youth leaders, who pass on their knowledge to a total of 75 of their own groups. YMCA Colombia works with a network of 75 institutions (NGOs and governmental organisations) active in the fields of peace, participation and income generation. The activities reach 10'000 people a year.

Aims

The programme is aimed at socially and economically disadvantaged young people in poor quarters in Colombia. It is intended to prevent young people from joining armed groups or being forcibly recruited by them. It strengthens their competences so that they can develop into peace-builders in their societies.

Activities & Effects

Peaceful coexistence and conflict resolution

Activities
  • Conducting training courses for peaceful coexistence.
  • Carrying out training courses for mediators.
  • Form and consolidate 75 youth groups with at least 20 members who meet regularly, create a timetable and organise activities on their own.
Effect
  • The young people act as mediators in conflict situations and offer peaceful solutions in their families and their environment.

Youth organisation and participation in civil society

Activities
  • Conducting training on youth organisation and participation in civil society.
  • Identification of 100 young people who want to get involved in politics.
  • Identification of offices for young people in councils and civil society organisations.
Effect

Young people play an active role in civil society and fully benefit from their civil rights.

Income Acquisition

Activities
  • Carrying out training for entrepreneurship.
  • Selection and support (including seed capital) of entrepreneurial initiatives by young people or youth groups for implementation based on business plans, market analyses and budgets.
Effect

The young people have developed their entrepreneurial skills.

Institutional strengthening of the partner organisation

Activities
  • Adaptation and optimisation of the measuring system.
  • Conducting the pre- and post-studies for measuring of the capacity building of the youth. 
  • Continuing education on gender equality with an external consultant for 25 employees of YMCA during 3 days.
Effect

YMCA Colombia strengthens its competence in youth work.

Results 2019

Peaceful coexistence and conflict resolution
  • 1' 571 young people (51% women) from the seven cities completed the training (30 hours) in  "Peaceful coexistence and conflict resolution". Through the training, the young people strengthened their skills as mediators in conflict situations and exercised this role during a total of 22 peace actions in their communities. The actions included activities to promote gender justice, create meeting places and peace zones, protect people of the LGBT community and preserve nature. Thanks to these actions, a total of 3' 679 people have been reached, who can now benefit from a more peaceful environment.
  • 76% of the trained young people showed positive changes in their behaviour as peace builders and in the relevant social skills after completing their training.
  • 349 young people (55% women) were trained as youth leaders.
  • The content of the training was adapted and a stronger focus was placed on how young people should deal with the increasing violence in their communities and how to mitigate the risks associated with it. In addition, the young women were given advice on how to protect themselves against gender-specific violence.
  • For the first time, a national meeting of 35 particularly talented youth leaders from the entire project took place. During 5 days the young people exchanged ideas and experiences on peace building and founded a national Paza la Paz youth network.
Youth organisation and participation in civil society
  • 1'541 young people completed the training (30 hours) in youth organisation and participation. They now know their rights and duties as well as the democratic mechanisms. They have also been trained in social skills such as teamwork, communication, decision-making and group leadership. These skills enable them to participate actively in civil society and in designated institutions such as youth or neighbourhood councils.
  • After completing their training, 61% of the young women and 60% of the young men feel strengthened in their abilities as peace activists. This is an enormous progress compared to the previous year, where only 19% of the women and 46% of the men noticed a strengthening of their abilities.
  • 490 young people were involved in a total of 27 public bodies such as local youth committees, nature conservation groups, women's groups and school councils
Income generation
  • 1’526 young people successfully completed the training in income generation (20 hours) and acquired skills in leadership, teamwork, assertiveness and life projection. Thanks to the training, 65% of the trained young people were able to significantly strengthen their entrepreneurial profile.
  • 534 young people attended the advanced training courses on specific topics such as financial management, which were conducted by external institutions.
  • 24 income generation projects were launched, such as a barber salon or the production of soft drinks. These small businesses received small start-up financing of around CHF 170 each. This enabled 207 young people (107 women and 100 men) to improve their economic independence.
Institutional strengthening of the partner organisation
  • The 7 local programme managers and some other project staff completed a workshop on the Sustainable Development Goals of Agenda 2030 with a special focus on the issue of inclusive, peaceful and just societies.
  • YMCA Colombia organized an international conference on "Education for Social Transformation" with experts from Colombia, USA, Canada and Peru.

Results 2018

Program Area “Paza la Paz”

Peaceful coexistence and conflict resolution
  • 1,596 young people from the seven cities of the programme completed their training (30 hours) in the field of "peaceful coexistence and conflict resolution". They now know ways to solve conflicts without violence and act as mediators in dangerous situations.
  • The contents of the module have been adapted and now include training blocks on topics such as violence against women, post-conflict, peace agreements and forgiveness and reconciliation.
  • 223 young people (59% women) were trained as youth leaders. Together with their groups in the neighbourhoods, they independently initiated 73 projects and activities in order to sensitize the population and to point out solutions.
  • 4,310 people took part in these activities, which were organised by the young people.
Youth organisation and participation in civil society
  • 1,476 young people completed their training (30 hours) in youth organisation and participation. They now know their rights and duties and the democratic mechanisms. They are also trained in teamwork, communication, decision making, group management, etc. These skills enable them to participate actively in civil society and in institutions such as youth or neighbourhood councils.
  • 131 young people (66 of them women) were elected to public bodies such as neighbourhood councils, youth councils, etc. in 2018.
Income generation
  • 1,545 young people successfully completed training in income generation (20 hours).
  • 314 young people attended advanced training courses on specific topics such as financial management provided by external institutions.
  • 25 income generation projects such as small grocery stores or a neighbourhood library were launched. These small businesses each received small start-up financing of around CHF 170.
Institutional strengthening of the partner organisation
  • The 7 local programme managers and the social workers completed further training in "theory of change".
  • YMCA Colombia intensified cooperation with other organisations and networks and worked with a total of 87 organisations (including government organisations).

Locations

Field reports

Activities worldwide

Further information

Flag of Colombia
Facts about the program

Name: Paza la Paz - A step towards peace
Partner organization: Federación Colombiana de ACJs-YMCA
Locations: Armero-Guayabal / Bogotá / Bucaramanga / Cali / Medellín / Pereira / Quindío
Goal: Education for socially and economically disadvantaged young people in
poor quarters of Colombia
Target group: 1,500 young people and young men and women between 14 and 28 years of age
Required funds 2020: CHF 370'000
Duration: 2019-2020, Programmphase VI
Responsible: Isabelle Aebersold,isabelle.aebersold at horyzon.ch

Facts about Colombia

Capital: Bogotá, D.C.
Population: 49.7 mill.
Human Development Index: 0.761 (rank 79.)
Life expectancy: 77.1 years
Median age: 31.3 years
Youth unemployment (15-24 years): 19%

Source: Human Development Report