International Youth Day – Part 1, Maria’s story

Image 1 - Maria's story

As a part of International Youth Day we are sharing the stories of some of the youth leaders we’re proud to be working with. This year’s theme is ’Youth Building Peace’. Involving young people in transforming their communities into safer, fairer, more peaceful places is central to the work of all of our partners. As Colombia emerges from decades of conflict, and embarks on the process of rebuilding itself as a peaceful country, young people have an important role to play in ensuring this peace is sustainable.

This trilogy of stories demonstrates how our partner, Si Mujer, is helping young people to contribute to building peace in Colombia. We support Si Mujer to train young people to know and demand the protection of their sexual and reproductive rights and to fight for gender equality. The young women featured here explain how they are now using what they have learnt about their rights to educate others, and to take action to help reduce sexual and gender-based violence and discrimination. The recent peace agreement between the Colombian government and the FARC guerrillas received international recognition for having an unprecedented focus on protecting the rights of women and girls and LGBTI* Colombians. Si Mujer’s youth leaders are making important contributions to help make these promises a reality.

(*lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex)

“My name is Maria, I am 17 years old and I’ve been part of Si Mujer since before I was born. My mother was a victim of sexual violence and sought help from the organisation – she fell pregnant with me as a result of the attack, and Si Mujer have provided me with psychological support since I was a little girl. During one of these session, they invited me to join their training programme and I decided to do for it.

When I started the training process I didn’t know anything about the subject of sexual and reproductive rights, I had very mistaken opinions about abortion and other issues around the subject. That said, when they talked about sexual violence, I know a bit about it, but it was very difficult for me to speak about it given what had happened to my mum. I took part in further training, after the initial phases, and I learnt more and became a stronger person. We started a Youth Steering Committee – we have a say in everything Si Mujer does. Being part of the Committee helped me realise that the subject of sexual violence didn’t have to make me feel bad or weak, on the contrary, it could make me stronger. So I started giving talks in my school and that led me to set up a sex education project, because the school wasn’t providing it. It was a great process, thanks to the support I received from the teachers and the headmaster who approved the idea right away. I’ve shared what I learnt from Si Mujer with students in my school, and I’ve referred lots of girls to Si Mujer’s healthcare service and invited them to join the training programme.

In terms of my family life, the process I’ve been through with Si Mujer has helped a lot. Thanks to Si Mujer, my mum and I have learnt to talk about what happened to her. It used to be difficult but now she’s setting an example of how to make a success of your life despite the troubles of the past. We can use our experience to help many many other women who have experienced the same things she did, so that they don’t get consumed by their experience and can move forward and become stronger than ever before. I would say that the support I’ve received from Si Mujer helps me every single day. I’ve used what they’ve taught me to resolve problems in my wider family – I’ve helped my grandmother understand a lot of these difficult issues because they were taboo topics for her. Today she and all my family are proud that I’m part of Si Mujer, because they know that we’re helping improve lots of people’s lives. They’ve seen me give talks in our community about sexual and reproductive rights – people come up to me with questions now!

What I like most about being part of Si Mujer, which is possible thanks to CCC, is that every day I learn new things which I can use to help new people who don’t know about their rights and who are at risk of these rights being violated. Thank you to everyone who supports Si Mujer’s work!”

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