Colombia faced a sharp economic decline in 2020 due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and the harsh lockdown measures adopted by the government. The country’s GDP contracted by 6.8% and the national poverty rate soared, jumping from 36% to an estimated 52%, reversing all the poverty reduction gains made in the past decade. The national unemployment rate reached 21% by mid-2020 and was twice as high as a year before. To address this unprecedented rise in poverty, the government implemented a temporary “solidarity income” of US$44 per month, but this was not enough to cover the cost of food for a family of four, estimated at US$80 per month.
Young people have been hit especially hard by the crisis. The youth unemployment rate skyrocketed in 2020, jumping from 20% to 36%. Young people living in marginalized communities, like the ones where CEDECUR operates, were already in a disadvantaged position, lacking the technical expertise needed to secure decent employment. Unfortunately, finding work amid a severe economic crisis became even harder. Without viable job prospects, many young people turned to criminal groups and gangs, which offered them an easy and lucrative way to make money.
The pandemic also caused a significant rise in teenage pregnancies. As schools were closed throughout 2020 –and many remain closed today, especially inmarginalized communities– young people could not access comprehensive sexuality education. In addition, access to sexual and reproductive health services was deprioritized, and there was a shortage of contraceptives in public sector clinics.
CEDECUR was founded in 1982 with the goal of developing intersectoral community participation models with people living in poverty (mainly young people, women, minority groups and community organisations). CEDECUR operates in the suburbs of Cali, the most populous city in Colombia’s Southwestern region, with an estimated 2.3 million inhabitants. CEDECUR has a core team of 10 full-time employees, which is complemented by contract-based professionals that are hired to implement specific initiatives. CEDECUR seeks to improve the living conditions of the populations they serve through research, consulting, technical assistance, training and the implementation of social impact programmes. Their four areas of work with young people include a leadership academy, environmental training, job readiness and income generation training, and agricultural training. What sets CEDECUR’s livelihoods programme apart is that it provides life skills/personal development training and individual emotional support for each participant, helping them overcome challenges, complete 3-month internships to gain hands-on experience, and secure employment post-internship. This ongoing support makes a big difference to the young people CEDECUR serves and contributes to the programmes success. CEDECUR has a Board composed of six directors, half of which are women. Each Director represents one of the six organisations that co-founded CEDECUR.
EMpower’s ninth and final grant to CEDECUR will help 208 marginalized young people between the ages of 18 and 24 (52% female and 48% male) acquire the skills they need to secure and maintain employment in the formal sector through vocational and entrepreneurship skills training. The grant will also help CEDECUR strengthen its communications and fundraising capacity, leading to a 50% increase in the organisation’s budget by the end of the grant period.
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