Global Reach: Colombia

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EMpower currently support work in the urban areas of Cali, Bogota and Barranquilla. Our work focuses on Livelihoods and Health and Well-being. Young people aged 15-24 represent 18% of the population, and all youth under the age of 25 constitute 43% of the population.

Issues affecting Youth

Armed Conflict

Over the past five decades, Colombia has experienced ongoing internal conflict between the government and anti-government groups, principally las Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia, commonly known as FARC. While formal peace negotiations are being finalized, the peace accord is a polarizing issue for Colombians and there is a lot of uncertainty about what “post-conflict” Colombia will look like.

High Levels of Violence

The armed conflict has caused Colombia to be a very violent society, especially in cities where criminal groups connected to drug trafficking have emerged. Colombia has one of the highest homicide rates in Latin America and youth ages 10-24 made up 36% of all homicide victims in 2014 (91% of these victims were male). Young women in Colombia also experience high levels of violence. In 2014, young women ages 10-14 suffered the highest number of sexual assaults, and over half of partner violence victims are within couples ages 15-29.

Internal Displacement

Due to constant threats of violence, many Colombians have been forced to migrate to other parts of the country, resulting in more than 6 million internally displaced people, surpassed only by Syria. Afro-Colombians, indigenous groups and rural populations have been disproportionately affected by the conflict. Internal migration has put pressure on cities because they are unable to properly house and provide services for the increasing number of migrants. The ongoing conflict, resulting internal migration and reintegration efforts result in overcrowding and higher levels of poverty and violence in cities.

Youth Unemployment

The unemployment rate is 18.9% for young people ages 15-24 in Colombia. A 2016 report by the World Bank showed that one in five youth between ages 15-24 in Latin America are neither in school nor working (“ninis” in Spanish: “ni estudio ni trabajo”). Colombia’s percentage of ninis is higher because of the country’s widespread organized crime. Criminal groups often pay more than minimum wage, making it an appealing alternative to working formal jobs for many Colombian youth.

Lack of Marketable Skills

There is a marked discrepancy between the skills employers want and the skills students learn at school. Young people overall lack the technical expertise required for an increasingly specialized labor market.

Our Approach to tackling the Issues

EMpower supports local organizations that:

  • Work to combat violence by helping young people develop positive life skills such as peaceful coexistence and non-violent conflict resolution.
  • Provide intensive vocational training in areas that have proven employer demand and direct linkages to employers.

Other countries in Latin America:

Our Underwriters pay for all of our administrative and fundraising costs, so 100% of your donation goes directly to empowering at-risk youth.