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 Yvonne Gutierrez, I’m 19 years old, I’m from the beautiful city of Cali in the wonderful country of Colombia.
A year and eight months ago I found out about this marvellous organisation that works to defend the rights of young women and men. I first heard about it through an activity that their Child and Youth Friendly Healthcare Service ran in the school I was in at the time.
They invited me to take part in their training, and I’m so grateful to them for it. I don’t regret accepting the invitation one bit. The process they took me though helped me discover what I want to study, work and fight for. It’s amazing really, because before this I didn’t even know that there were such things as sexual and reproductive rights, or that things that happen around me in my home and community can directly affect me, or that I shouldn’t judge a woman for having an abortion because it is her right to do it. I’ve definitely come to love everything that Si Mujer stands for. I especially admire the youth steering committee they have here.
I’m still amazed when I remember that after just four days with Si Mujer, my life started to change. Before that, my life didn’t have much meaning but I learned to feel proud of myself, my relationship with my father went from being a constant fight to him starting to tell me he was proud of me – he’d never said that before. I’ve learnt how to say ‘I love you’ to my family with confidence, and I can teach my little sister about the wonderful rights I know we have and how to make sure nobody violates them.
I think that Si Mujer is like a bicycle – if you get on and pedal you go forward, but if you don’t then you always stay in the same spot. Thanks to Si Mujer I’ve advanced and I can say loudly and proudly, “I have a right to…!”
I’m really good at reasoning now, I have a plan for what I want to achieve in my life, and thanks to the training that Si Mujer has given me I can pay tribute to the name of ‘Children Change Colombia’ and use what I’ve learnt to transform lives. I’ve had the chance to get to know all the work Si Mujer does, and I have never met such compassionate people as the women who work there. The organisation is a university for life, I’ve not only learnt about social issues but all sorts of skills and knowledge that will serve me in other parts of my life, be it in my studies or work in the future.
Si Mujer has opened doors for me. They’ve given me the chance to do what few people manage – to love my work, and work for what I love. I’m infinitely grateful to all the team there, because they’ve helped me take steps forward towards being a better person, to keep dreaming and keep changing Colombia.”