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Using music schools as platforms for peace in Colombia

Meet Rosaura Peña Rivero, an 11-year-old girl living in Arauca, Colombia. Rosaura is one of the hundreds of children being trained as part of the “Voices of Reconciliation” project being rolled out by the Kofi Annan Foundation, Alianza para la Paz and Fundación Nacional Batuta in different regions of Colombia. In this project, Rosaura and other participants are learning about peace, tolerance, and gender equality through the medium of music.

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“I believe we should all have the same opportunities, the same rights.”
– Rosaura Peña Rivero

Rosaura’s municipality of Arauca is considered one of the most violent areas in Colombia, along with Puerto Asís and Putumayo. In these municipalities, local communities are highly vulnerable to armed groups and forced displacements. The multiple clashes and conflicts resulting from this disproportionately affect young people, who are prime targets for recruitment by armed groups. This phenomenon has been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, which brought about the closure of schools and increased insecurity and poverty.

In addition, young people from these municipalities are exposed to high levels of domestic and sexual violence in their families and communities. According to the Colombian Medical Examiner’s Office, sexual violence has increased by 19.3%, and domestic abuse has increased by 25.8% since 2021 in Colombia. These statistics imply that a girl or woman suffers domestic abuse every thirty seconds.

In response to this, in 2022, the Kofi Annan Foundation and its partners Alianza para la Paz and Fundación Nacional Batuta launched a pilot project, “Voices of Reconciliation”, which aims to promote a culture of peace and provoke positive change in these communities affected by violence. The project is supported by the Migros Foundation and the Republic and the State of Geneva.

“Voices of Reconciliation” integrates the dimensions of peace, reconciliation, and equity into music education. Peace and gender training, dialogue sessions, musical practice, psycho-social support and an awareness campaign have helped young people most affected by violence, as well as their families and the authorities, improve social cohesion in their communities. These activities have also helped them develop a sense of shared belonging and a strategy for resilience to violence.

As of December 2022, and since the start of the project in April 2022:

  • 235 children and young people, 108 families and 35 Batuta music teachers and national staff have been trained in peace and gender equality;
  • The children have organized 2 community concerts;
  • 4,733 community members have been reached through an advocacy campaign to raise awareness of violence prevention, gender-based violence and avenues for peace and reconciliation;
  • 28 local authorities, national institutions and civil organizations have engaged in dialogue to create a strategy for a protective environment for children, adolescents, and young people.

Our broader objective is to strengthen cooperation between local authorities, national institutions, and civil society organizations to create an ecosystem of protection against violence. This aims to support children and young people in vulnerable conditions.

The Kofi Annan Foundation and its partners want to replicate the programme in 14 municipalities in 2023-2024, with the potential to expand even further to Batuta’s 230 music schools in the following years. With additional funding, we can impact thousands of children, families, and communities across the country.

Help us help more children like Rosaura and build peace through music education

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Photo: Fundacion Batuta / Liliana Merizalde. An ACORDES POR LA PAZ class in Arauca


Photo: Fundacion Batuta / Liliana Merizalde. An ACORDES POR LA PAZ class in Arauca.