Voces Colectivas, an initiative started in 2014 by two New School alumnae, Jacqueline Rojas and Jillian White, provides a platform to document the lives of survivors of violence and their children in Colombia. In particular, the project seeks to create a formal oral history of the lived experience of children categorized as “victims”, a legal category within Colombian society. Through qualitative interviews, facilitated by White and Rojas, and photography exhibits, these youths were able to tell their story from their own point of view. The objective of the initiative is to create a replicable model through which children and young people can be better incorporated into public life.
In Colombia, the term “victim” represents both a legal category to which a person might belong and a social status. People displaced by war, for example, can claim this legal status. However, the process of being legally registered as a “victim” by the government can be difficult. For this reason victims’ associations have been formed over the years to better help their members advocate for themselves and to ensure government representation. These groups, however, often struggle with a lack of cohesion and collective identity. For children, being a “victim” adds an extra level of complication since their young lives are being defined by this categorization whether they have suffered violence and displacement or not.
The Voces Colectivas project seeks to help address these issues and the lingering tensions from conflict which prevent communities from building peaceful futures where they are able to collectively work together to address topics such as economic depression, a lack of opportunities for youth, and food insecurity.
Going forward, Voces Colectivas is producing an oral history toolkit, which will provide resources to support the efforts of those interested in conducting community oral history projects in rural communities in the department of Caldas. In addition to housing these resources, the vocescolectivas.org website will also have an interactive platform where participants can upload their stories.
For more information about the initiative, click here.
Watch Equity for Children’s interview of Jillian White, co-founder of Voces Colectivas, discussing the inequities encountered by children categorized as “victims” as well as challenges and lessons learned from the initiative.