Using music to strengthen youth’s resilience to violence in Colombia
The Kofi Annan Foundation has partnered with Fundación Nacional Batuta and Alianza para la Paz to strengthen Colombian youth’s resilience to violence through musical education. The “Voices of Reconciliation and Equality” project uses music to promote peace, build resilience, and encourage gender equality amongst children and adolescents in two communities most affected by violence – Saravena in Arauca and Puerto Asis in Putumayo.
Despite the 2016 Peace agreement between the Colombian government and FARC rebels, Colombia continues to be the scene of multiple clashes and violence that disproportionately affect young people. Moreover, youth 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.
Between January and June 2020, 190 minors (young people aged 12 to 17) in Colombia were recruited by armed groups, a fivefold increase compared to the same period in 2019.*
About the "Voices of Reconciliation and Equality” project
“Voices of Reconciliation and Equality” uses music to facilitate dialogue around peace, resilience, and gender equality. Whilst its primary aim is to support young people affected by violence, the project also seeks to promote peace, reconciliation, and equality in the larger community.
This project also organises dialogues and radio and social media campaigns in both municipalities. This is designed to amplify local understanding of resilience building and has the potential to reach over 2,000 people
Voices of Reconciliation and Equality is a whole-of-community effort. In 2022 it brought together 277 children and young people, 106 families, 36 music teachers and administrative staff, and 28 local authorities, national institutions, and civil society organizations representatives from the municipalities of Saravena and Puerto Asis..
Results & Impact
Voices of Reconciliation enhanced the sense of shared belonging and identity among young participants and their families from communities disproportionately affected by violence.
In 2022, over 270 students in Saravena and Puerto Asís participated in over 70 music classes incorporating themes of equality, peace, and reconciliation. In addition to gaining music skills and awareness of the topics, the activities helped children and adolescents build stronger bonds with their peers. Following the workshops, the active participation of girls increased in the music classes, and the students felt more confident in handling disputes in their family environment.
The project also created an ecosystem of protection against violence around the students, raising awareness of reconciliation and gender equality among families and strengthening collaboration with local authorities on these issues. In 2022, five workshops were held, enabling a higher engagement of families and increased their understanding of issues related to equality, rights of children, traditional gender roles and violence. In addition, meetings with local authorities and a survey completed by people from civil society resulted in the identification of the persisting challenges to the protection of children in the communities.
In 2022, to further increase our reach and impact wider communities, we launched an awareness-raising campaign. As part of the campaign, local concerts were held, audio-visual products were produced, and communication pieces were developed and shared across different platforms. These actions allowed children to strengthen their influence agency in the transformation for peace, equality, and reconciliation, promote peaceful messages, and generate empathy while proving the impact such activities can have.
To maximize impact, the Kofi Annan Foundation, Fundación Nacional Batuta and Alianza para la Paz drew lessons from the experience in the two municipalities. These lessons will enable the creation of a model for mainstreaming peace and gender equality in music education that can be replicated on multiple levels.
Photos: Fundación Nacional Batuta. *Sources: The New Humanitarian & Relief Web
Alianza para la Paz (APAZ) is a regional organization based in Colombia, Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala. Their work focuses on conflict management, the reintegration of juvenile offenders and gang members, the prevention of gender-based violence, and the protection of former members of violent groups.
APAZ believes in the power of people to collectively transform their communities for the better, and strive to strengthen the fabric of society, promote dialogue, build trust, encourage collaboration, and bolster institutional legitimacy in every area of their work. They also view these goals as necessary conditions for regional collaboration, and work to implement actions which are both context-sensitive, but also help create synergies between the local, national, and regional communities.
Fundacion Nacional Batuta is a Colombian organization which works on improving the quality of life of children, adolescents, and young people in vulnerable communities in Colombia who are particularly affected by violence.
Situating itself at the intersection of education, culture, and social development, the Fundacion Nacional Batuta uses musical education and collective musical practice to instill notions of inclusion, equal rights, and cultural diversity in young people. They believe in the transformative power of music and base their work on the premise that group musical education has the potential to support different facets of human and social development. Through this, they strive to strengthen the fabric of society, help individuals build the capacity to become active members of society, and generate spaces for dialogue and reconciliation.