I’m a social worker and I’ve worked with Si Mujer since 2010. I coordinate our youth engagement programme, where we train up young people on sexual and reproductive health and rights and gender issues. In Colombia young people are still not recognised as active participants in their own development so we are deliberately making a space for them to be able to be themselves. To be protagonists of their own development and not simply passive actors.
The training process the young people go through with us is 40 hours long – it’s an in-depth thematic training, and at the same time we are trying to strengthen their leadership. So, those who participate take on the commitment to do at least one replication exercise on the topics they’ve learned about with other young people. They choose the group they want to speak to, they choose the topic, and they design the activity. Of course, they are accompanied by other experienced young leaders so they have support.
At the beginning of the process, they are not very informed, and then… to see them speak with empowerment, to fight for their rights, it’s inspiring! When the Young Leaders used to see young girls who were pregnant they would say “that has nothing to do with me, it’s their problem”. But after the training process they reflected and realised that this is related to them, to their own communities and personal lives.
The young people we work with tell us this feels like a family in some ways.
Many of our young people are from the LGTBIQ+ community and can experience issues feeling accepted in their family and their community. They feel that in this space they can fully be themselves and be listened to and supported. They see that the other young people who are in the group care about them, that they have friendships that are important. So, these have been very valuable spaces, and their families also recognise this, as some have been engaged with us for eight years now. At the beginning, some of the parents had doubts, but over the years they have seen that this process has helped their children to grow a lot and I think it has been a win-win for everyone.
It’s been so good to see the young leaders continue with this passion and engagement wherever they go. They continue to talk about sexual and reproductive rights in the spaces they are involved in, and to mobilise on issues that are important to them. Some are now mentors to the younger volunteers who are starting out. It’s a dream for me that in the future some of the young people who have gone through the process will come and support us and lead this programme, that would be really amazing.
It’s very satisfying for me to see the changes we can make to people’s lives.
When we’ve been in the streets campaigning, and the young people speak about SiMujer, older people will say “Oh my! Si Mujer was very important in my life, it saved me!” then give them a hug. So, it has a great impact on them when they receive this kind of positive feedback and see the importance of what we are all doing.