"My name is Alejandra; I am of the native Nasa ethnicity and I am 14 years old. I live in a village where there are about 500 people, near the community La Ceja.

Every day I walk to school with my three little brothers who are in 1st, 2nd and 7th grade. We have to walk half an hour, so we wake up at 5am to get there on time. In my community, people are hardworking and everyone gets up early. The children who live farther leave very early for school.

I study in 9th grade. My school focusses on agro-environmental studies. The teachers teach us projects that deal with the environment, customs and traditions of the community and our Nasayue language. When I finish, I would like to earn a scholarship to study nursing and then be able to study medicine in Bogotá to have more knowledge and to make something of myself.

My parents are farmers; we grow coffee and beans. I help my dad a lot in the fields but I have never missed class for going to work because I don’t like to miss out on school. My grades are always good.

However, I have met many children who stop studying to go to work or because they become pregnant. In secondary school there are almost no students. From 9th to 10th grade they leave, the majority goes to work. I do not like this because studying is an opportunity that we should not miss.

Another reason why children miss school when there is no water at school. We have to go fetch it in the river. One time the river next to the school dried out and we can’t spend all day without water.

Although it is cold where I live, there is no running water in the houses, we fetch it from a spring. In addition, until three years ago we had no energy and still today we have no road to reach my community.

We have a nurse who sees many parts of the community at a time and a doctor comes every month. But if an emergency happens, since there is no road, sometimes they have to carry people out in a hammock. But for example childbirths happen here in the community, with midwives. Here many girls have children at 13 or 14 years old.

There is not a lot of violence in my community although the armed groups have always been very close. Before, there was more violence but now we don’t see much. There are illegal crops, and the children also work there, but the town council banned selling the drug in the community and set banishment as the punishment.

What I have seen is violence by parents and mothers against children or by men against their wives. However, in the community we have a council, where the whole community participates, and they decide about crime and punishment, which can be “cepo”, when the feet are tied for the time that the town council decides, or “cueti”, when they hit you with a stick. If the person does not want to submit to traditional punishment, they send them to the police. In school, we also have a school council and commissaries are in the classrooms. In addition, at school they talk to us about our rights and explains the route to follow if something happens to us, if someone does something to us. But there are many children out of school and I don’t know if they know these things.

There should be a lot of investment in my community because there is a lack of services for children, such as pre-schools where young children can go.

You also need to invest in roads because there is no way to get there by car. It took an hour and a half to get to the municipal head of Páez, for example, first walking up to where there is a road.

Colombia's budget should be invested in education, ensuring that all children have the opportunity to go to school, and guarantee transportation, for example. Also in health, let everyone have a doctor.

Above all it is necessary to invest more equitably in the people in need, in the people who suffer the most. For example, in my community, there are children who cannot go to school because they have to work. You see the needs but there is no investment.

That is why they should know how to better invest the money, they should do it better so that we all have the same opportunities, so that all boys and girls receive what they need. It would be good if they listened to all of us, that the people in power would listen to us who don’t have the power.”

ABOUT THE PROJECT

Together with the Colombian Family Welfare Institute (ICBF) and UNICEF, Save the Children is providing technical support to strengthen the capacities of the municipal, district and departmental administrations for the timely and effective inclusion and protection of children’s rights and family strengthening in development plans and in the design of projects and investment.

The project is also assessing more than 1,000 development plans (municipal, district and departmental) regarding the level of inclusion of early childhood, childhood, adolescence and family strengthening.

The participation of children and adolescents and strengthening of civil society are critical components of the project. Through increased meaningful participation the aim is for children and adolescents to start influencing the decisions on all levels that affect their lives.