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Funding to save Colombian children from sexual violence

Work to protect children at risk of sexual violence from armed guerrillas, criminal gangs and other abusers in Colombia has been given £493,573 in support from the Big Lottery Fund. 

Children of the Andes is one of nine UK-based organisations sharing £4.2 million in a new round of awards from the Fund’s International Communities programme.

The project in Cali will help victims of sexual violence from armed groups as part of a broader aim of tackling the widespread but hidden sexual abuse in Colombia of children and young women by members of their own community - usually much older men. Many of the children will be particularly vulnerable for reasons of disability, HIV and AIDS, living in care, poverty or social exclusion.

In 2011, 19,433 children in Colombia reported being victims of sexual violence of whom 7,304 were aged under 14 (according to a report by Plan International). However the majority of crimes are not reported and the office of the Public Prosecutor in Colombia estimates that 200,000 children are sexually abused in Colombia each year. In Cali, 17,578 pregnancies were registered for girls aged 10 to 19 between 2010 and 2012; 654 of these were girls aged under 14.

Children of the Andes will work with local experts to enable vulnerable children and young people to have easy access to information and training related to reproductive rights and sexual health. This will increase their protection against sexual violence and its consequences including unwanted pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases. A Child Friendly Healthcare Service will be set up to provide medical care and psychological support; a mobile version of the service will go directly to the most vulnerable communities. Fifty young people will be trained as youth leaders who will provide peer training.

Duncan Millar, Children of the Andes Executive Director, said: “Sexual violence against children is very prevalent in Colombia. It is used as a weapon of conflict by guerrillas, illegal armed groups and criminal gangs. Child abuse within the home is also a serious problem. This violence can be linked to attitudes towards children’s and women’s rights and issues of sexuality, consent and culpability. It is made worse by a lack of information and understanding of children’s sexual and reproductive health and rights. In more than 80 per cent of cases where children under 14 become pregnant, the father is over 20 years old. Children just don’t have the power, support or understanding of their rights to defend themselves against this abuse.

“In one case an 8-year-old girl, Juana, was being sexually abused by her godfather. She was referred to the project by her teacher where she received medical and psychological care and the family was helped to report the case to the police. Juana’s abuser is now in prison and she is rebuilding her life with her family.

“We hope to shine a light on the hidden nature of sexual violence against children by creating an environment where children can speak out against it, understand their right to be free from it, and engage their families and communities in talking about it. One crucial aspect of this project is that children will lead much of the work themselves through youth leaders who will train their peers, advocate for better sexual health and education services for children, and challenge harmful cultural and gender stereotypes.”

Gender-based violence will also be tackled in Liberia with a project that will improve access to justice for poor women and girls in Grand Cedeh County. Action Aid receives £476,768to break the vicious cycle of poverty and patriarchy through awareness-raising and increased livelihood opportunities which will boost the women’s confidence and independence, making them better able to speak out against abuse.

The project will bring together community members and traditional leaders, as well as the legal, education and health sectors to discuss women’s access to justice and protection. The project’s work will ensure that around 400 police, health workers, educational professionals and potential jurors have the capacity to respond to incidents of sexual violence and offer treatment. Dozens of traditional leaders will be targeted to ensure that traditional laws no longer violate the rights of women and girls by harmonising them with state laws.

Build Africa receives £500,000 to promote more positive attitudes towards education and improve the quality of primary school education for more than 12,000 disadvantaged girls inKenya. The project in Kinango and Msambweni districts in Kwale County will promote the adoption of child-friendly and gender-sensitive teaching methods to increase the importance placed on education for girls, respect for girls’ rights, increase their knowledge of life skills and opportunities to improve their prospects.

The project will work with nearly 15,000 community members to address attitudes towards girls in education. Communities will be engaged in monitoring the performance of their schools and exam results. Paralegals, health workers, education officers, teachers, religious leaders and community volunteers will be trained to become community activists to bring cases to court, engage with local police and work with support services like girls centres.

Small scale farmers struggling to make a living in the semi-arid districts of Migwani, Mwingi Central and Mbeere South in Kenya will benefit from a £497,923 grant to Traidcraft. Farmers will be supported so they can adapt and diversify their crop cultivation practices to increase production levels and household income, helping them become more resilient to the impact of climate change. Training will include negotiating and bargaining for prices. The project will draw on local weather forecasting services to improve farmers’ ability to respond to uncertainties in weather patterns and farmers will receive weather updates via text message.
The Order of St John receives £257,365 to recruit and train volunteers to inform, educate and support more than 6,000 women and their families to prevent ill health and death inMalawi and Zambia. Training will consist of sexual and reproductive health, infant feeding and child protection. The volunteers will undertake home visits, identify vulnerable families, check for danger signs and encourage ante-natal and post natal visits.

Peter Ainsworth, Big Lottery Fund Chair, said: “Sexual violence is a horrific crime scarring lives inside and outside recognised conflicts, as has been highlighted at the recent global summit in London with United Nations Ambassador Angelina Jolie. Sexual violence in Colombia is not only perpetrated by armed groups, but is prevalent across the country with many children suffering lasting damage to their physical and mental health. We hope this funding to Children of the Andes will protect and promote the rights of these very vulnerable children and improve their futures."

Other awards announced in this round:


Project location



APT Action on Poverty

Sierra Leone


To improve access to safe water and sanitation

Peace Direct

DR Congo


To provide sustainable livelihoods in rural communities

International HIV/AIDS Alliance



To reduce new infections of HIV




To provide sustainable rainwater supplies.


Big Lottery Fund Press Office: 020 7211 1888
Out of hours media contact: 07867 500572
Twitter: @biglotteryfund #biglf  #ABetterStart
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Notes to editors


  • The Big Lottery Fund is responsible for giving out 40% of the money raised for good causes by the National Lottery.
  • The Fund is committed to bringing real improvements to communities and the lives of people most in need and has been rolling out grants to health, education, environment and charitable causes across the UK. Since its inception in 2004 the Fund has awarded close to £6bn.
  • The Fund was formally established by Parliament on 1 December 2006.
  • In the year ending 31 March 2013, 28% of total National Lottery revenue was returned to the Good Causes
  • Since the National Lottery began in 1994, over £31 billion has now been raised and more than 400,000 grants awarded across arts, sport, heritage, charities, health, education and the environment.
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