Ludeyner Fernando Peláez Zapata – Si Mujer Young Leader

When I was in school, I thought I knew everything about issues relating to sexuality, but after the first training with Si Mujer I realised that actually the information I had was very little. I have always been a person that others feel comfortable asking questions to, but I realised I didn’t always have the right answers.

First of all, I knew nothing about abortion in Colombia, nevermind in the rest of theworld. When I arrived at the Si Mujer workshops and was confronted with this issue, I was surprised when they told me that abortion was legalised in 2006 under three grounds. At first I was like, “Well, why should abortion matter to me if I am a man? It has nothing to do with me, I’m not going to get pregnant”. But then they told us, “look how it touches you, look around you, look at the people who live near you, look at your family”. And I thought, if my mother had been informed about this, maybe she could have continued with her life plans before I arrived. 

In my community, I know that there are many people who have terminated their pregnancies, but I don’t know if they did it in proper clinics, or if they did it at home.

The young people where I live don’t know about these issues, they haven’t been taught about it in school. One of the activities that we do as young leaders is to ask young people to write down the first word that comes to their mind when we say the word abortion. Words like “death, murder, violence” start to come up, so we work from there and unpick where these ideas come from.

Ludeyner with fellow Young Leader Valentina in Amaime, outside of Cali

So that’s why I think this is important, I need to know about these issues, but also to help educate others about them. And the most important thing for me is not just to know about rights, but to learn to empower myself in order to actually claim them. It’s very important to link these issues with the most essential thing, which is empathy. So, when I give a talk on sexual and reproductive health, I always talk about how this touches you, why this should matter to you. 

Before I started with Si Mujer, I couldn’t speak in public, it was difficult for me to walk in the street with my head up, I always walked with my head down. Now I express myself much more easily, because I’m not afraid of what I feel. I talk a lot about empowerment because that’s what helped me, in loving myself for who I am. If it wasn’t for this project, I wouldn’t have lived it.

We still have a long way to go, but I hope that abortion will be completely decriminalised in Colombia, so that women can decide and have greater autonomy over their lives and over what they expect of themselves.

I love my mother and she is very proud of me, but one day we were at the river and she was dismissing the topic of abortion. So, we had a talk about how to use empathy to discuss abortion with young people. From a very young age, my mother would say to me, “I wanted to be a model, but I had you”. I was able to talk to my mother and tell her, “mum, if you had had the chance, this dream of yours could have been fulfilled”. It was a very nice conversation and at the end she said to me “you’re right, and looking at it in the way you’ve just presented it, and how it currently stands in Colombian law, I support it”. I felt the proudest person at that moment. It is something that I will always carry with me, to have heard my mother share those words of support.