Ibagué is the capital of the Tolima department on the central mountain range of the Colombian Andes. Located between Bogotá and Cali, it is home to over 500,000 people and is an important commercial centre. The region is also a significant producer of coffee and rice and has become an increasingly big player in the nation’s textile industry.
Despite these economic factors, unemployment remains high at around 15%, and the proportion of people without formal work is large.
Since 1987, SOS Children’s Villages has been supporting children, young people and families and advocating for their rights in Ibagué.
Although violence in Colombia has subsided following the 2016 peace agreement, armed groups continue to recruit and exploit youth throughout the country. In 2021, some 13,000 children were among those affected by the conflict through displacement.
To protect them from the violence of guerrilla groups, children must have the opportunity to stay in school and continue their education so they can break the cycle of poverty, learn a trade, and become independent adults.
Only 40% of Colombians have a job in the formal sector. Strict labor regulations and high minimum wages prevent the creation of such jobs, leaving most of the population working in the informal sector in an unregulated environment.
In addition, Colombia has one of the largest disparities in the world in technology use: 73% of people with incomes in the top 60% uses the Internet, but only 53% of people in the bottom 40%. For many people, this lack of access to technology prevents them from entering the formal labor market.