Colombia affects the lives of 18 million children every day and has
been going on for a long time. The country was seized by the Spanish
in 1499 after which followed one hundred years of violence.
1948 a civil war began and 300,000 people were killed. Since then
the fighting has continued.
The country's army,
three guerilla armies and thousands of private, so called paramilitary
soldiers fight and kill in Colombia today. In addition there is gang
violence and death squads everywhere in the cities. Those worst affected
Over the past 12 years nearly 1.5 million people have been forced
to flee their own country - Six of every ten refugees are children.
Many of these refugee-children don't go to school. Their families
had to leave everything they owned when they fled. Now they can not
afford to pay school fees. Many children have lost one or both of
their parents. There are at least 6,000 child soldiers in the country,
divided between the various armies and troops. Every sixth child soldier
has killed someone, and six of ten have seen others kill.
During the year 2000 more than 500 children were killed. Land mines
exist everywhere in the country. In one study, done by UNICEF, 46%
of Colombian children said that violence prevents them from going
to school. 61% had no hope for the future.
In 1996, 27 children gathered together from different organizations
throughout the country. That was when the Children's Peace Movement
was born. UNICEF also invited other organizations, among them the
Catholic Church, the Red Cross and The Boy Scouts. Today more than
100,000 children, who belong to more than 400 children's and youth
organizations are members of the Peace Movement. In a child vote in
1996, 2.7 million children voted to choose which of children's rights
were most important in Colombia today.
The answer was clear, children demand peace and an end to violence
in the country. In the Children's Peace Movement children help other
children who have suffered from violence. Children also contact politicians
and demand that, for example, schools and parks shall be designated
as peace zones and that children shall be given protection when they
walk home from school.
Meet Mayerly, a brave girl...