Prioritizing Children in the Urban Agenda in Cali, Colombia

Our report, “Cali, ¿Cómo Vamos en Niñez? Priorizando la niñez en la agenda urbana” (“Cali, How Are Your Children Doing — Prioritizing Childhood in the Urban Agenda”), results from the second phase of our project measuring child wellbeing and collaborating with communities and local governments to impact policy affecting children. The project was implemented by Equity for Children in partnership with the Cómo Vamos City Network and the Corona Foundation.

The first phase of the project consisted in establishing a baseline for monitoring early childhood living conditions for the year 2013 in seven Colombian cities (Minujín, Bagnoli, Osorio & Aguado, 2015).


Data and Information Sources


Developing a series of indicators based on reliable, comparable and up-to-date information remains a key challenge. In order to understand and interpret the indicators included in this report correctly, it is important to bear the following points in mind:


  • At the municipal level, we have based our analysis on information provided by the relevant secretariats and government offices.


  • At the national level, the data derives from the National Administrative Department of Statistics (DANE), the Unitary Child Well-Being Indicator System (SUIN), the Colombian Institute of Family Well-being (ICBF), the National Institute of Legal Medicine and Forensic Science (INMLCF), the National Ministry of Education (MEN), the National Information Network at the Victims’ Unit (RNI), and the Ministry of Health and Social Protection’s Comprehensive Social Protection System (SISPRO).


  • Preference was given to finalized figures, and, in the case of provisional data, the most recent information deriving from official sources was used.


  • Aggregated figures draw on national data wherever possible in order to allow for comparison with other cities.


Key Findings: What the Indicators Tell Us? 


  • 3 out of every 10 inhabitants of Santiago de Cali are children (aged between 0 and 17 years), and, as such, their constitutional and legal rights “take priority over the rights of others”. The state has a duty and obligation to use “all of the funds at its disposal” in order to guarantee children’s rights on an ongoing basis, and to ensure that these funds are targeted in such a way as to yield positive results.


  • 9% of the city’s children can be classified as being among the poorest of the poor (58,644 children in extreme poverty, defined by a score of ≤ 23.4 on the SISBEN-III Welfare Index). These children should be regarded as the priority population for local policy action.


  • Falling at the first hurdle: registration of births. According to the available data for 2015, 1 in 6 infants under the age of one year has not been registered and so is effectively invisible to the state. This presents a challenge in terms of ensuring that their rights are recognized.


  • Around two thirds of all deaths of children under the age of 5 are preventable.3% of under-five deaths occurring in 2015 resulted from problems arising in the perinatal period, and could have been avoided with a package of measures including preventative intervention, early diagnosis, and improvements in socio-economic conditions.


  • The highest number of cases of domestic and sexual violence towards children were reported in four districts in the east of the city (13, 14, 15, and 21). In 2015, 35.6% of cases where children were abused within households affected by domestic violence, and 22.1% of cases of sexual violence, occurred in these districts.


Some recommendations: Action Points 


  • There is an urgent need for an integrated, up-to-date system of indicators for child well-being that could serve as a guide for public policy decisions. The lack of availability of current, reliable, disaggregated, and consistent data at city and comuna level continues to pose a challenge.


  • Closer attention must be paid to the obstacles to registering births and to the limitations of the information systems used in this process. Registration is the first rung on the ladder of child development, and an essential stepping stone towards the recognition of other rights.


  • A municipal strategy aimed at reducing the negative impact of socio-economic factors on children’s well-being, particularly in four eastern districts (13,14,15, and 21) is also needed. In these districts, poverty and vulnerability overlap with high incidences of homicide, sexual violence, and abuse perpetrated against children. There is undoubtedly a need for greater and more systematic coordination between the various actors, i.e. local government, academia, community leaders, NGOs, and private organizations.


  • Including the voices of children themselves is the key to achieving a more thorough analysis of child well-being. Objective indicators should be complemented by subjective ones — i.e., indicators that capture children’s own perceptions of their quality of life. In the short term, this recommendation could be put into practice by including a set of questions aimed at children in the citizen’s perception survey carried out by the Cómo Vamos City Network.


  • The various institutions need to work together effectively in the best interests of children, and to approach this sector of the population in a comprehensive manner. By comprehensive, multi-sector policy measures for children, we mean those that, among other characteristics, are aimed at a “unique and complex” socio-economic context, within which programs for health (both preventative and educational), physical infrastructure (quality housing, public utilities, public hospitals, child development centers), and public safety are implemented in a coordinated way to bring about improvements in children’s well-being. The municipality’s recently established Undersecretary for Early Childhood is expected to play an important role in coordinating and integrating public policies aimed at children at the local level.


Read the full Como Vamos Cali Recommendations and Findings.


Translations by Ruth Grant, Tinta Viva Translations.

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