Leftist rebels stand guard. Photo courtesy Reuters.

The conflict in Colombia began 50 years ago between rebel groups (most notably FARC rebels) and the government. In this time over 50,000 people have lost their lives, as well as leaving Colombia with the largest population of internally displaced people.

The International Criminal Court states that it is a crime to recruit children under the age of 15 “to participate actively in hostile activities.” Different organisations have come up with different figures for the amount of children who have been involved in the conflict with figures of between 5,000 and 7,500 thousand being quoted – of these, 30% are girls.

Girls were recruited by the FARC rebels mainly for information gathering because people are rarely suspicious of little girls. Girls have also been used to transport money and drugs for this reason. A study carried out in 2012 showed that the majority (81%) of children voluntarily joined the conflict as they believed it would provide them with economic security. Some girls have reported receiving gifts of make-up and skin creams from the armed groups – items which would be a luxury for those living in poverty in Colombia. The other 19% of children who are involved in the conflict were kidnapped and in some cases tortured into participating.

Since 2013 the Colombian government and the FARC rebels have been holding peace talks aimed at ending the conflict, however to date no conclusion has been reached. One small step has been made in the effort of ending the use of children as soldiers as in 2015 the FARC rebels said that from now on they will not be recruiting children under the age of 17 to fight in their guerrilla ranks. Since then, organisations have been working to reunite the children involved with their families, as well as providing them with the help that they need to recover from the things that have experienced.

To read more about the child soldiers of Colombia, including individual accounts, click here and here.

-Michelle O’Brien
Junior Girl
Girl Museum Inc.

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