November 2018, Bogota – Young women and men in Colombia are working for peace. As part of the ‘Urban Peace Labs’ Programme, UN-Habitat and Servicio Nacional de Aprendizaje (SENA) have run workshops with disadvantaged youth in Cali and Barranquilla, empowering young men and women to become leaders and change-agents in their communities. The second phase of the Urban Peace Labs Programme will begin in Spring 2019.
Following the Urban Peace Labs session at the World Urban Forum in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia in February 2018, the Governments of Saudi Arabia and Colombia organized a five day training in Colombia to raise the awareness of youth on the issues of inclusion and sustainable urbanization.
Participants included young people from some of the most disadvantaged communities in Colombia, including Indigenous Communities, Afro-Colombian Communities and single-mothers with all 56 being eager to engage.
“We loved being able to speak our mind, and being able to hear other’s experience,” stated Erika, 22, a youth participant from Cali. “I never knew that so many people faced similar problems. But we are all positive and we can all make a change.’
The workshops encouraged participants to focus on the assets in their lives and neighbourhoods, using these to forge plans for engaging other youth in their communities and making a change. Working in groups, the participants developed Actions Plans for themselves and their communities, to tackle issues including waste management, crime, drug addiction and disenfranchisement.
“It is rare for these students to have their voices heard. They are usually forgotten about and become targets for gangs and criminals,” reflected Luisa, a local trainer from Barranquilla.
Following the workshops, the principle trainer from Saudi Arabia, Dr. Reem Al Saud, briefed local government officials on the priorities and needs of youth in their cities. Representatives of the Mayor’s Office and planning authorities were engaged and eager to improve their work with youth.
“I’d like to express my thanks for the wonderful hospitality of the Colombian local authorities and people,” stated Dr. Al Saud. “Exchanging experiences will benefit both Saudi Arabia and Colombia and their people as we work together to empower our youth.”