‘Think About Peace’: protecting a new generation in Cali
s the third largest city of Colombia, Cali receives many internally displaced persons (IDPs) that flee the countryside as a result of ongoing violent conflict. These victims of war consist of both civilians and demobilized combatants. Regardless of their role, however, they are likely to have suffered traumatic experiences, which can cause them to have difficulty in integrating in a new environment. A special peace advisory body of the Cali government aims to prevent this through three integrated projects.
War toys are traded for the ‘Disarm and Think About this Story’ booklet
Background Ever since the start of violent conflict between the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), the military and several other armed groups, a steadily increasing number of IDPs have become part of Colombia’s reality. Cali is one of the largest cities in the country and as such attracts many of these IDPs. Once arrived in the city, building a new life can prove difficult due to poverty, high crime rates, because of traumatization or a combination of them. The large influx of IDPs into the cities also puts much pressure on the host communities. Often, socio-economic conditions are already troublesome in the parts of the city the IDPs end up in, and problems become aggravated. Of the three largest cities in Colombia, Cali has had the highest homicide rate for a long time. Therefore, the government has since 2014 embarked on a comprehensive campaign to promote peace and reconciliation in the midst of gang violence. The specially installed Asesoria de Paz, a peace advisory body, presented three initiatives that were to contribute to the reduction of violence in the city of Cali.
The project ‘Disarm and Think About this Story’, is a publication in which children use creative writing to tell their stories about war. Children in vulnerable neighbourhoods of Cali were then asked to turn in their war toys in return for a copy of this publication. Writing and reading about experiences of violence was aimed at helping children to process traumatic experiences and raise awareness, while the ‘disarmament’, the handing in of war toys, would help them to leave images of violence behind. The publication reached many children and has been reprinted seven times, with the support of several other organizations.
“One thing that I like in particular about the Cali approach is that it has a strong gender component. Furthermore, by differentiating in age groups, this project contributes to peace by engaging young people of various ages with tailormade programs, helping them evade violent and dangerous lifestyles and contribute to society.” Aisa Kirabo Kacyira Deputy Executive Director, UN-Habitat