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Using virtual technologies to strengthen Colombian adolescent women’s right to participate

At the beginning of the pandemic, when schools closed in many parts of the world, learning moved online. In Colombia’s Pacific region, one of the most conflict-affected areas in the country, this was no easy task—especially for young women like 14-year-old Marta from Quibdó, 15-year-old Natalia from Tumacom and 16-year-old Fernanda from Buenaventura.

© Isabel Cano, Fundación Plan

Before their schools closed in March 2020, the 3 girls attended school in the mornings, although they rarely participated. In Natalia’s words: “At school, we girls weren’t taken into account. The men felt they were the best... we couldn’t give an opinion, if we did, right then and there, they would stand up and tell us to stop talking.”

Virtual learning seemed impossible due to the region’s lack of internet access and students’ limited access to technology. Nevertheless, in June 2020, these 3 adolescent women began participating in the Canada-funded Leading for Peace project’s virtual Training for Participation strategy. It provided adolescent girls with the tools to connect, receive training and regularly engage with their peers across the Pacific region.

Thanks to this strategy, the girls now know their rights and have discovered skills that they did not know they had. According to Martha: “During the pandemic and the virtual processes, I discovered my talent. I discovered that I was good at making videos, so when they gave me activities at school and in groups I did them; when the videos were with other people, I would be in charge of editing them, and so on, well, I really liked it.”

“I learned the importance of knowing our rights, but above all to speak out for girls who cannot do so in my territory,” says Fernanda.

Implemented by Plan International Canada, the project has made a difference for thousands of young women in Colombia’s Pacific region, many of them survivors of violence. Like Marta, Natalia and Fernanda, they now have newly gained confidence, strength and knowledge of human rights and gender equality.

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