45 kilometres outside Medellín, in the Antioquia department, Rionegro stands at 2,130 metres above sea level. Well-connected to Medellín, it has a population of 128,000 inhabitants.
In Antioquia, tens of thousands of people have been displaced as a result of the decades of armed conflict between guerrilla groups, paramilitary forces and the military. Many children and young people are growing up without parental care, or in poverty.
Since 1997, SOS Children’s Villages has been supporting children, young people and families and advocating for their rights in Rionegro.
After decades of armed conflict, social instability and violence, almost half of the population in the Antioquia region lives below the poverty line. Here, the unemployment rate is high and about half of the workforce is earning a living in the informal sector.
And while poverty is concentrated in the rural areas that are sparsely populated, more than 50% of the population in the Medellin metropolitan area is living in poverty and nearly 60% works in the informal labour market or is underemployed.
In rural areas around Rionegro and throughout Colombia, only 9% of 18- to 22-year-olds attend high school. In urban areas, the figure is as high as 33 percent.
In fact, Colombians of indigenous descent receive an average of two years less schooling than others.
Without secondary education, however, young people will not acquire the skills necessary to find adequate employment. Over time, this will prevent them from providing a better life for themselves and their families.