Colombia Unrest: “Art and Dance as a Calm in the Storm”
May 12, 2021
According to official figures, at least 47 people have died - with more than 1876 others wounded, since the original action morphed into nationwide protests. Demonstrators - many of them youth - continue to take to the streets of Colombia’s major cities against a police crackdown that is prompting international outcry from the European Union and global human rights organisations.
Halt to Peace
War Child works inside Colombia to enable children and youth to claim their rights and fulfil their potential - free from trauma and violence. The escalating unrest and loss of life falls at odds with these efforts, including education and arts initiative, SaludArte.
The project - which sees children and youth take their mental health into their own hands in the face of COVID-19 - has been temporarily suspended to protect all involved.
Play and movement are helping children cope with the stresses and strains of the COVID-19 pandemic
The protests reflect a growing discontent and lack of vision among young people across the country. COVID-19 has significantly exacerbated the unemployment crisis and in effect the threats that children and youth are facing - in particular forced labour and recruitment into criminal gangs.
“People ask why so many youth are involved in the demonstrations. I respond: what alternative do they have?”, says local rap artist and War Child project coordinator Tomas Lion. “The government's proposed tax reform would have only intensified these risks. Youth needed to stand up, and they did so with good intentions."
A Creative Response
Despite this challenging context, War Child is thinking on its feet - exploring safe and creative ways to boost community protection mechanisms and safeguard children’s psychosocial wellbeing.
Lion explains: "Our efforts will continue to centre around psychosocial support through music, play and movement-based activities. We want to extend this support to parents and caregivers who are experiencing unimaginable stress when their children walk out the door to join the demonstrations."
War Child works to raise the voices of youth - through the channels that represent them best
We are also developing mental health and peacebuilding messages that the youth in our programmes can carry forward - through the channels that represent them best. “Youth are already out there using dance and art as a calm in the storm and a means of coping”, says Lion. “Now is the time to elevate their voices and facilitate these creative actions."