Colombia, the fourth largest economy and third most populous country in Latin America is at the dawn of peace for the first time after 50 years of armed conflict. Throughout this time, Colombia experienced the largest internal displacement of its residents in the world—although Syria now has more displacements and refugees, Colombia displaced 6.5 million of its residents during the past five decades.
Colombia was one of the three countries that emerged from the collapse of Gran Colombia in 1830 (the others are Ecuador and Venezuela). A nearly five-decade long conflict between government forces and anti-government insurgent groups, principally the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) heavily funded by the drug trade, escalated during the 1990s. In October 2012, the Colombian Government started formal peace negotiations with the FARC aimed at reaching a definitive bilateral ceasefire and incorporating demobilized FARC members into mainstream society and politics. A definitive peace accord was reached in August, 2016.
Historically an agrarian economy, Colombia urbanized rapidly in the 20th century. It is experiencing growing rates of employment and income but, with its large informal sector, income inequality is its largest economic problem—only 9% of growth in five years for those in informal employment compared to 24.8% growth for formal workers, resulting in continued disparities of poverty. 27.8% of Colombia’s population lives in poverty.
Colombia has a high literacy rate at 94.7%. Fifty percent of the population is under age 30.
The Region – Soacha
Soacha, located on the southwestern side of Bogotá, is the largest city in the department. The population of Soacha is about 522,000, though many of the inhabitants are not registered (United Nations Trust Fund for Human Security). Joined by a continuous influx of rural economic migrants, the municipality is one of the largest recipients of internally displaced populations (IDPs) in Colombia.
Soacha is home to thousands of working-class Colombians. Residents experience multi-dimensional poverty including poor-quality housing, poor sanitation and hygiene, limited access to basic health care, food insecurity, limited access to education and training, and a lack of formal employment opportunities.
Youth in Soacha is one of the most vulnerable populations in Colombia. Youth generally lack economic security and educational opportunities for an improved life. In not having equitable opportunities, many youth have been recruited into gangs, guerrilla groups, and paramilitaries. This has exerted further pressure on an already vulnerable population through violent crime, robbery, and intimidation. The shanty town of Soacha offers youth little or no future.
Few children in this region have access to social services, and most face severe discrimination in employment, housing, education, and health care. Displaced families have fewer basic needs fulfilled than the poorest income quintile of non-displaced families in Colombia’s cities. Teenage mothers are at a heightened percentage in Colombia and many of these girls usually drop out of school, making it difficult to break the cycle of poverty that grips many young mothers.
Soacha Digital Village
YTF expanded its work into Colombia in 2012. In partnership with a local grassroots organization in Soacha, YTF established the Soacha Digital Village, the region’s first community technology and learning center. The center was launched in August 2012 and YTF benefited from volunteers from the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University who donated their time and talent at the launch of the center.
The Soacha Digital Village serves as an after-school “hub” to provide daily technology education training for youth between the ages of 5-16. YTF Academy at Soacha Digital Village offers after-school programs that integrate technology into daily activities while exposing young people to technology as a tool for learning. In GirlsRock!, YTF promotes girls’ civic engagement by using technology as a means to empower them by identifying their needs and leading community initiatives to address them.
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Support YTF’s Work in Colombia
There are 2 ways to make a financial investment in YTF’s work in Colombia. You can mail a check to the YTF mailing address in the U.S. at:
Youth for Technology Foundation (YTF)
119 Evergreen Road
P.O. Box 436411
Louisville, KY 40253
Alternatively, you may donate here to make a secure donation to YTF’s work in Colombia.
YTF continuously seeks volunteers to mentor and support youth in their learning and economic growth. To volunteer, email us!