message is clear - the children of Colombia want an end to violence
Colombian children voted for the following:
The right to life
The right to education
The right to love and family
The right to a clean environment
The right to be different
The right to special protection
The right not to have to work before the permitted age
The right to freedom of expression
The right to be well-treated
The right to be taken care of first
The right to peace
The right to justice
birth of Children's Peace Movement
and hundreds of organizations and local government authorities helped
to organize Colombia's first democratic voting by children. The children
advertised the voting date through full-page ads in the daily papers
and organised rallys in towns. At Mayerly's school and throughout the
entire country adults had put up voting booths and ballot boxes for
the children to put their ballots in. The children appealed to both
the army and the guerillas to observe a truce during the day of voting.
- Don't kill anyone when we vote for peace, they asked.
And no one was killed during the day of voting in Colombia! The "candidates"
in the election were the Children's own rights. Twelve rights were illustrated
with a white hand of peace. When the votes were counted, 2.7 million
children had participated in the election! As the most important rights
the majority of the children voted for the right to live, the right
to peace as well as the right to love and to have a family.
- We wouldn't have been able to do it without the adults, but it was,
at any rate, we the children who showed the way.We are tired of violence.
We want to be able to go to the park or the forest without being afraid
to step on a land mine. The adults must understand that we have the
right to be children and the right not to be afraid to go out. We don't
want to see more innocent people die or children made victims of violence,
says Mayerly, firmly.
Teaches the children
the children's vote was held Mayerly was 12. Her mother and father were
afraid that somebody would try to kill her because she dared to speak
about peace. The demands of the Children's Peace Movement led to the
government banning the paramilitary groups: Those who are hired as murderers
and who are sometimes also called death squads. They continue, of course,
to kill and have support from many in leading military circles in the
Colombian army. But now there is at least a law against them.
Today Mayerly helps the children at a grammar school in her neighborhood.
They have no teachers so the class is conducted by volunteers.
- I have taught them what the rights of the child are - that their parents
are not allowed to hit them, that they have the right to play and the
right to know love and security. A child who knows his or her rights
demands that they be respected. One who knows nothing cannot demand
- We build peace with play and friendship between children, says Mayerly.
That is our alternative to the gangs' violence and drugs.
- I dream about living in a country where one doesn't shoot at each
other and where children are not killed or lose their parents. But I
know that it will take time to end a war that has gone on for 40 years.
And that we have to convince the adults.
- A little group that speaks about peace cannot be killed. But no one
can kill 10 million Colombians. So if we convince children in schools
and people in our vicinity, this is the way to a better future, says
Sofia made her school into a peace zone
Text & Photo © ERLING SÖDERSTRÖM