Friday, September 7, 2007

You Reap what you Sew

Violent crime, drug cultivation, and fighting between rival armed groups continue to plague Colombia. As a result, more than 2.2 million Colombians have been internally displaced, with many others seeking refuge in neighboring Venezuela. Rosa*, who comes from the particularly violent northern region of Colombia, Norte de Santander, was forced to flee with her family to Venezuela when her father was murdered in 2002. Afraid and unhappy, they quickly returned to Colombia and began living in a swettlement in Cucuta, which lacked proper health and sanitation facilities.

As part of a project to empower the displaced refugees of Colombia, the UNHCR helped Rosa restart her life by providing her with a sweing machine and knitting equipment. Rosa exclaims,
I make purses, belts, earrings, blouses and even bathing costumes.
People buy my clothes and my mother helps me by selling them in Cucuta...I
cannot complain.

The UNHCR project is linked to the Mexico Plan of Action, which aims to protect refugees and displaced people in Latin America, and has been adopted by nearly two dozen governments in the region. The UNHCR hopes that this program will encourage self-sufficiency and local integration, while also improving social and economic development of internally displaced Colombians. Rosa is quite hopeful that this program will do just that.

*Name changed for protection