Friday, May 1, 2015

Country Overview: Colombia

I haven't been in this country for very long, but I have had some great conversations with friends and contacts that have allowed me to learn a great deal already. I also will beginning weekly blog series beginning next week, so I wanted to make sure I covered my country overview of Colombia and reflections on South America (coming tomorrow) before moving on!

The Basics

The country of Colombia is home to over 48 million people. The capital city of Bogota is also its largest city, with well over 7 million inhabitants. The national language is Spanish, and my middle school lessons on the names of fruits is not exactly helping me to get around. This is the first country where I will be needing a translator!

Physically, the country is absolutely gorgeous. Mountains, beaches, and forests dot the country. The weather is mild for almost the entire year. This is certainly a welcome change after the heat in Southeast Asia!

Unfortunately, the country has certainly seen its difficult days. It is infamous for gang activity and danger to foreigners. Though a great deal has changed since the 90's when these problems were most prevalent, there are still many desperate people in the country.

Colombia and My Project

While here in Colombia, I will have the chance to work with organizations that provide services to vulnerable women and children. Child sexual abuse is common here in the country, as well as prostitution. The country was placed on Tier 2 in the last TIP report due to a lack of services provided to rescued victims. Prostitution is legal in Colombia within particular zones of various cities. However, the government's attempts to provide services to sex workers have not proven particularly successful.

Here are the questions I hope to investigate here in Colombia:

  1. How does poverty play a role in the sexual exploitation or abuse of women and children?
  2. What protections are in place to rescue victims being trafficked from the country elsewhere?
  3. How has the recent legalization of prostitution affected the problem of sexual exploitation in Colombia?
  4. In what ways can the government improve the services provided to victims of sexual exploitation and abuse?
  5. What are the most difficult obstacles (specific to Colombia) that survivors must overcome during their recovery process?

First Impressions

To begin, I have already fallen in love with the Colombian people. Though there may be many problems in the area of exploitation and abuse in this country, the people as a whole are incredibly friendly and willing to help. I also am loving the moderate climate after feeling like a yo-yo the last few weeks, going from tropical weather to falling leaves and cold wind in Australia.

I am also very encouraged already by the types of programs that I have encountered. One in particular provides a safe place for children to play and learn to trust adults again after living on the streets or in dangerous situations. The program is all about helping them understand the world beyond their streets. This is why they decided to paint a lifesize elephant on one of the walls where the children come every week. These at-risk children will likely never see an elephant in real life or even on T.V. in their current situation, but this organization wants them to dream beyond that, to see their potential.



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