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Former Child Soldiers Healing Through Art

Today, February 12, is the International Day Against the Use of Child Soldiers, also known as Red Hand Day.

Children living through war are often survivors of physical, psychological, emotional and sexual violence. Some manage to escape. Many find it hard to overcome their trauma. Rehabilitation is especially difficult for girl child soldiers, since re-integration programs are often ill-equipped to address their needs.

Taller de Vida, our partner in Colombia, is working to change that.

With their "Saquen mi cuerpo de la guerra" (“Take my body out of the war”) campaign, Taller de Vida uses art therapy to empower former child soldiers and survivors of sexual violence.

By using multimedia, the young girls share their devastating experiences.

Take Our Bodies Out of the War!

Participants in Taller de Vida’s programs share a message for the International Day Against the Use of Child Soldiers:

“Que los niños y las niñas no tengamos que contar historias de guerra!” (Boys and girls shouldn’t have to tell stories of war!)

Child soldier reflecting on war

"Silence stayed with me, they caught me. When I was 7 years old … I could not prevent them from taking over my body. Today, I am 17 years old. Never again will I let someone possess my body and I will decide who to love".

A message from Stella Duque Cuesta, clinical psychologist and director of Taller de Vida:

In Colombia, the war is not letting up, especially for the millions of boys, girls and adolescent victims of armed conflict who suffer its consequences daily: death, displacement, mutilation, sexual violence, and recruitment, among others, and who require progress in the peace process and care.

Former child soldiers reflect on their experience of war

"I did not decide. My father decided for me. Instead of letting me go to the park, he gave me to the guerrillas. I turned wild … resentful … I was not a person. Why was everyone indifferent and did not look for me and rescue me? I was only 12 years old".

A message from Luna, a Taller de Vida participant:

This February 12, do not forget:

That the war in Colombia is a scourge that has disintegrated our families and has led us to be involved, used and to live a life of violence and sexual exploitation at an early age, also, it leaves us – boys, girls and youth – orphans. We want this to change and on this Red Hand Day we raise our voice and ask those who have the power to change our reality to act!!!

Because we have the right to be children, to dream and to build a future where no one decides for us and where we can live and grow overcoming the challenges of childhood and contributing to peacebuilding.


Former child soldiers reflect on their experience of war

"Innocence, silence and pain. We lived in the countryside, I was 7 years old, we were playing … but then the biggest horror of my life started. They began to touch me, and I did not say anything for fear of everything".

Additional resources

Colombia: Protecting Children of Wa

Stop Hunting Children! Report on the sexual violence committed against adolescents in the armed conflict in Colombia (PDF)

Creating a Conflict-Free Future for Colombia