Community Update

World Pulse Toolkits Available!

At World Pulse, we recognize the need for ongoing learning—for you and for your community! Our toolkits are all available here.

We are especially excited to share our signature Citizen Journalism and Digital Empowerment Curriculum. Start learning today!

Angels learning to walk

Minefields in the distance

Walking seemed to be something pretty normal for most of us. And it is. As children, we learned to walk and we discovered the world. We started our relationship with everything from outside our mother through our mouths. We wanted to eat everything as we did with our mothers’ breasts. We took all that we saw first to our mouth and from there, discovered the whole. We took our first steps after some months of crawling and not only did we lose weight as babies, but we lost connection with a small world which expanded as we took new steps. Every day we conquered the world. Everyday as we grew, we found new spaces which took us in to new experiences in our life. As we walked, we went into every direction we wanted to go and we also learned to run as if something or someone was after us. Something bigger than us, something stronger. And it is true. Not for all but for many.

Walking through our mountains here in my country Colombia can not only be the most exciting experience, but also the most dangerous. Divided into three geographic corridors by the Andes Mountains, Colombia is an amazing country with more than 1,141,748 km2 full of endemic species and different type of ecosystems. The people are 50% mestiza, 20% European white descendants, 14% mulattos and 16% African descendants. We have learned to live under extreme conditions in many ways since we were conquered, but now we are living overexposed to the most extreme as our geographical, social, political and economic conditions put such difficult pressure on all our people but mainly for our future: on children.

Our country is mainly rural. More than 80% of our land is hidden in between amazing forest of many types. Cloud or rainforests where kids never thought to find anything different than exotic animals or abandoned tin cans to play with. But today, they find more than that. As they walk trying to discover world, they find death. As they grow up trying to survive, they become mutilated by an invention we never wish to encounter in our whole life, in any place, in any land: a landmine.

In 2009, the Landmine and Cluster Munition Monitor identified 674 casualties in Colombia from explosive devices, all of which were recorded by the Presidential Program for Mine Action (Programa Presidencial para la Acción Integral contra Minas Antipersonal, PAICMA) as having been caused by antipersonnel mines.1

Civilian casualties (232) made up 34% of the total, similar to 35% in 2008. There were 442 military casualties.2
Of civilian casualties, 21% (49) were children (41 boys and 8 girls), up from 17% in 2008.3
Men made up 93%, or 170, of the 183 adult civilian casualties, and 97% (653) of all casualties were male.
Nearly one-third (52 of 183) of the adult civilian casualties were manual coca eradicators, employed by the Program for the Eradication of Illicit Cultivation (Programa para la Erradicación de Cultivos Ilícitos, PCI).4
While this is a reduction from the 76 coca eradicator casualties registered in 2008, this was an increase as a proportion of total casualties.5
Since 2008, coca eradicator casualties have occurred in 12 municipalities and in seven of these, they made up between 75% and 100% of all recorded civilian casualties.6
In 2009, casualties were recorded in 23 of Colombia’s 32 regions; however, 57% of all casualties occurred in just four regions: Antioquia (166), Caquetá (78), Nariño (73), and Meta (69).

I live by Antioquia where rural life can be frightening. I have been exposed to different difficult situations such as walking for two days in a minefield while I was doing an education project. I entered walking and I came out almost dying in tears. Nothing happened to me, but it did to many people in that area for so many years that I can barely understand. How does this happen? Why? But I never get an appropiate answer. There is none for such a crime and never will be.

Thousands of dollars go to NGOs working on landmines but the problem will remain as long as our population does not have the right education to believe there is opportunity for them. Guerrilla and antiguerrilla groups are growing as peasants are getting poorer every day and are being captured by them to work just even for food.

There are not equal opportunities in rural areas and we are being displaced to cities where life is unsustainable. There are not landmines in the cities, but government is such a tricky and complex institution that it is also mutilating our people and leaving our children disabled forever. A dangerous vicious circle which is destroying us from inside out as we do not know who the enemy is. Who is planting those landmines? Why? How come? I am still asking myself the same question since I walked through those lands but mainly since I met those kids, those men, those women whose families get destroyed with no hope or help. Kids going to school never find their way to learn as someone put a trap under their dreams.

Kids like José who said to his sister after he heard a bang: "Run, Clara, run." Clara was 6 years old. And she said "I cannot, I cannot. I do not know why... but my leg is behind me." She never spoke again. She never played with a new doll. Her mother never saw her again alive. Her brother never saw her or anything as he went blind after the explotion.
Eduardo remembered going out with his friends after some cows during the night. They wanted to play, they were just kids. And he remembers he saw an amazing and brilliant light after he opened an old door. Everything went white and then black. Four of his five friends were dead. And he is still recovering from that day. He speaks slowly when he rememebers his accident. He doesn´t laugh much. But his eyes sometimes shine as a beautiful star.

Maria doesn´t remember what happened. But every day she passes by that statue by the river, she knows that day was her worst day. Her friend was killed there by a landmine while she was by the other side of the river.

Juan Carlos, 16 years old, today has a prosthesis donated by a Denmark company but he wishes Santa had given him a new bicycle that Christmas.

It is not fair. It is not. Equity should be the most important principle in our planet and in fact it is inequality which is ruling our world. Some have food and warm beds while many do not. Some have jobs and wealthy bank accounts while many are slaves and living under extreme poverty. Some walk enjoying the beauty of the rain while many die under the rain, leaving their legs behind them. Some go to fancy schools in fancy cars while many never have the chance to have a pencil in their hands or even a toy car. As we say in Colombia, some people were born having a star as many were born crashed by the stars. And to me this does not seem to be right. It is not just unfair but unethical.

We are overwhelmed, but organizations which should be doing their work do not. Thousands of organizations all over the world get thousands of billions of dollars to work for all of us. And they do not as they get entangled in their own bureaucracy. We build this patethic system which is not allowing our children to be the people for our future. If we do not change this system we are also responsible for this kids being killed going to school.

We are not doing our part as we allow our countries to grow without appropiate communities for the generations to come. We are becoming an insensitive species which may become extinct soon as we kill our people in many ways. We create wars as an industry. We pollute water as this is a business. We destroy rainforest as this gets rich people more money into their accounts. We kill animals for sport. We take from our land oil to build new countries by the sea with strange forms. We take green stones or transparent ones to wear them on our fingers giving us a strange power. The power of death. We send our men to fight in stupid wars invented by others at their desks. We rape our women and our children and then silence them for ever.

We forgot how to live as we did in the caves. We got completely disconnected from our own nature and we got lost in our own misery. We invented gadgets which by now instead of getting us closer are moving us away. Technology is giving us much but is taking everything, taking our inner connections. We cannot build a society which is inventing gadgets for war. There is no excuse. These gadgets are killing our kids and we are not seeing. We want to blame others but I can not see any other closer than my own inoperative government doing nothing but lying to us.

Life is short. I have learned that after having a car accident three weeks ago. But it cannot be so short that we do not to do anything about injustice, inequality, poverty or lands sown with hate and horror. Life is a gift. One to be delivered everywhere. Material things are just that. Things. But life is a gift no one should take from others. Life is that miracle we can not explain as we see our own sons and daughters, looking deep into our eyes as we breastfeed them, help them to crawl and then to walk into life. Life should be more than survival for many as some have more than enough. Life is that unexpected miracle we can not even understand and we sometimes underestimate, taking most of our days for granted.

While you are reading this article just remember that 3 people in Colombia might have stepped on a landmine. And one, two or even three people behind this statistic could be kids going to school. The problem is that nobody told them that we invented such a weapon planted to killed someone else’s dreams. We will have to tell our kids the truth to empower them to rebuild what we have destroyed. We will have to look at them into their eyes to let them know how bad we have behaved over the last centuries. Then we can empower them to believe they have a chance to be a new human race where they can walk free without fears or nervousness about their steps on this planet. We will have to learn many things first to teach again our children about freedom, reciprocity, respect, love, hope, ethics and mainly about illusions.

We live basically by the idea that we are free. We carry that illusion since childhood and we can not lose the power we get knowing we are a free species. Governments should know that. Democracy is the only option we have to be able to find the lost way for us and for our children. They are our future and the future is now. Sustainable development is the key. But not the one that we’re trying to find in meetings like the 2002 World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg where nothing was sustainable. We have to be first locally sustainable before having global meetings to have something to share - instead of paying to attend another international meeting that tells us everything is still the same.

We must face the truth and stop lying to ourselves about the future we believe we might have. Because there is no hope if we do not have compassion for others not just in the critical situations but everyday. Japan has been moving everyday a little bit, Libya has had its dictator for many years and we wait until the last moment to act. To speak, to write, to let the others know we cannot continue being this species we are now.

Night goes on and tomorrow will be another day everywhere. Another landmine will silence someone’s dreams or like Clara, their legs will be behind them forever. Tomorrow I will walk again in one of the most landmine-ridden places in my country and in my region where I find new people to talk to. But as I see those mountains I walked through from the distance, I cannot resist the fact that many kids are walking to their homes, to their schools over those green lands that seemed to me as the most dangerous red carpet anyone can ever see.

Life is short. But we have to live it in a valuable way for what we believe in. I believe Juan Carlos, José, Clara and many more kids in my country and other countries of the only planet we might have for this moment, could go to school without traps in their roads, without traps in their lives, without traps trapping them forever in their lifes. Instead, a circle of life. A pure one.

This article is part of a writing assignment for Voices of Our Future, which is providing rigorous web 2.0 and new media training for 30 emerging women leaders. We are speaking out for social change from some of the most unheard regions of the world.

___________________________________________
1 In previous years, PAICMA recorded casualties caused by ERW though, since 1990, most device types have been recorded as antipersonnel mines. This can be explained by the fact that all explosives that are victim-activated and can be triggered by an individual are referred to as antipersonnel mines in Colombia. Many of these could also be considered improvised explosive devices that are designed to act as antipersonnel mines. Most sources that collect casualty data are not trained to distinguish antipersonnel mines from ERW. Interview with Andrés Dávila Ladrón de Guevara, Director, PAICMA, Bogotá, 12 April 2010; and interview with Ana María Hernández Montoya, Deputy, Department Against Arms Contamination, and Stéphane Jacquier, Deputy Head of Delegation, ICRC, Bogotá, 13 April 2010.
2 There were 442 military casualties, 67 of whom were killed and 375 injured. PAICMA did not identify any casualties among non-state armed groups.
3 Ulrich Tietze, “Anti Landmine Action Concept–Data Analysis, IMSMA 2008–2009 to identify ideas for focusing PAICMA’s work in 2010–2014,” Bogotá, 22February 2010.
4 Email from Alejandro Espitia, Advisor, PAICMA, 22 February 2010.
5 Interview with Andrés Dávila Ladrón de Guevara, PAICMA, Bogotá, 12 April 2010.
6 Ulrich Tietze, “Anti Landmine Action Concept–Data Analysis, IMSMA 2008–2009 to identify ideas for focusing PAICMA’s work in 2010–2014,” Bogotá, 22February 2010. The six municipalities with the highest rates were: Puerto Asís, Valle de Guamez, Tarazá, Anorí, Puerto Libertador, and Tibú.

http://www.elcolombiano.com/BancoConocimiento/I/infografia_un_pais_mutil...

http://www.maginternational.org/where-we-work/where-mag-works/colombia/

http://www.flickr.com/photos/conexioncolombia/sets/72157626429048406/show/

Some legs behind
Pursuing a dream
Three real legs

Downloads

Comments

Martha, you deliver a strong vision of a Columbia free of land mines, more closely connected to nature, with greater equality among nations. I would have liked to known about a specific organization which eradicates landmines in Columbia. Is there such a group? If not, where could others who are concerned learn about how it is done in other nations to prevent the maiming and killing?

l love the images and captions. How could these images help tell the story to cocaine addicts in US to help them see the larger cost of their addiction?

You weave your lyrical storytelling with hard facts and moving stories from your community to shape my imagination for a Columbia free of landmines. "Kids going to school never find their way to learn as someone put a trap under their dreams." Strong word choice and bold picture painting with phrases meant to still my heart and truly consider the high cost of killing by a no name warrior.

Charming, bravely truth-telling, and insightful. You compel us to see sides of the drug war at a very personal level without leveling blame.

Naturally grateful,
Kat Haber

"Know thyself." ~ Plato

martha llano's picture

Hoping

Dear Kat,

there is none organization eradicating mines althought many ong work with it. I will put in the article some sites people culd visit to learn and help us all to find a way, new paths without mines in the whole world.

Con gratitud

Martha

Con afecto

Martha Llano
selva@sentir.org
marthallano.wix.com/serna

HAGA ALGO........ lo que lo haga feliz!
Y tan sólo recuerde que las soluciones a problemas globales dependen de cada individuo.

Angela U's picture

Congratulations!

Fantastic piece Martha. I've been so inspired by all of your work and feel very fortunate to have found each other through World Pulse!

Angela

martha llano's picture

To you

Angela,

your help has been a terrific gift I have received from universe....I have learned and hope to continue writing after this important step in life.

Thanks to you

Martha

Con afecto

Martha Llano
selva@sentir.org
marthallano.wix.com/serna

HAGA ALGO........ lo que lo haga feliz!
Y tan sólo recuerde que las soluciones a problemas globales dependen de cada individuo.

Nancy WiseWoman's picture

Wonderful Article

Martha,
You are an inspired writer and your writing inspire us as well! I am moved by your personal passion; your own caring voice comes out so strongly and makes me feel connected to you and to your cause. As a reader I beging to feel, to have the same passion that you do. Your use of examples and metaphors and your own personal experience create that feeling. I loved your beginning about babies/children learning to walk and to discover the world, and then, in Columbia's forest, finding that exploration of the wider world is not even physically safe! Continue writing and sharing out of your own experience.
Continue to make your voice heard, Martha. Know I am here to encourage and support you!
Love,
Your mentor, Nancy

Nancy Cosgriff

martha llano's picture

Beautiful

My beautiful mentor Nancy, thanks to you and to many other persons who allow me to speak. My voice is back. I am redesigning my life as I have realized how much I have lived and how much I have to share. Writing is my passion and will continue doing it even as part of this my new life. My accident gave me a new opportunity to rethink me and I love I have been at WP by the moment all this is happening as I feel your support and encourage. Today is here the National Day for a country with no minelands. Hope one day will be a true.

With love

Martha

Con afecto

Martha Llano
selva@sentir.org
marthallano.wix.com/serna

HAGA ALGO........ lo que lo haga feliz!
Y tan sólo recuerde que las soluciones a problemas globales dependen de cada individuo.

Martha,

What a sad and important story to share. Thank you so much for putting your voice out there, and sharing your words with us.
Best,
Marissa

martha llano's picture

True

It is true...sad but necessary to tell!

Con afecto

Martha Llano
selva@sentir.org
marthallano.wix.com/serna

HAGA ALGO........ lo que lo haga feliz!
Y tan sólo recuerde que las soluciones a problemas globales dependen de cada individuo.

JaniceW's picture

The red carpet

Querido Martha,
¿cómo estás? I was immediately drawn to your journal as I recently returned from Cambodia where I was working with land mine victims. With an estimate of 4-6 million landmines and unexploded ordnances still buried throughout the countryside, this toxic pollution (which Pol Pot described as his “perfect soldiers” for their effectiveness in causing fear and death) continues to savagely exact a human, social and economic cost resulting in Cambodia having one of the highest disabled ratios in the world, with one amputee per 290 people.

One of the NGOs I spoke with (Mines Advisory Group) have in fact been working in Colombia since July of 2009 providing Mine Risk Education and Community Liaison assessment in the Antioquia Department of Colombia. Colombia is one of the most mine-affected countries in the world with an average of two new victims of landmine and unexploded ordnance (UXO) every day. MAG has an office in Bogota, and deploys highly-trained staff to teach community members about the dangers of contamination. You can find out more about their work here. They also run a campaign called ‘Yo Me Protejo’ (I Protect Myself) designed to provide simple, practical information for people living and working in areas contaminated with mines and UXO. I encourage you to talk with them as you are in such danger walking through these areas. If there is a way for MAG to go in and clear your area, they will be able to post "clearance" signs informing the people that it is safe to travel into those areas.

Your passion and love for your country and people is palpable. We cannot choose the country where we are born but we can, and should, recognize that we are all part of one human family and do what we can to improve the lives of those less fortunate than ourselves. Everything truly good and worthwhile that has ever happened began with one voice, before it became many. Thank you for being that voice for the Colombian people.

Mejores deseos,
Janice xx

p.s. I wrote a piece about the discrimination of the disabled in Cambodia which you might like to read.

martha llano's picture

I will talk

Hi Janice, Thanks for the information. I will talk to them right now as I have never seen them here or in those places. Today is an important day for international minelands.

All the best

Martha

Con afecto

Martha Llano
selva@sentir.org
marthallano.wix.com/serna

HAGA ALGO........ lo que lo haga feliz!
Y tan sólo recuerde que las soluciones a problemas globales dependen de cada individuo.

Insha Allah's picture

passionate piece

Dear sister Martha,

I felt both sorrow and happiness at the same time while reading your strong passionate piece. I could also learn much about Colombia. You really made a voice for voices of unheard. I was so inspired. And it alerted me the fact that we have still many to work for our children and our world. In my country too, although it is not as serious as yours, we also have those explosive mechanisms hidden (may be some are by the government and some are by the rebellion groups) which kill and harm the lives of innocent ordinary people in rural areas. Thank you so much for highlighting up the crucial issue. I love it.

With Love,
Insha Allah

Shwe Wutt Hmon

martha llano's picture

Innocents

Inshla,

thanks for writing me. Indee in every war innocent people is losing the most. We loose everything and we do not receive anything back but pain. I hope one day new generation may forgive and forget what we have done.

Love

Martha

Con afecto

Martha Llano
selva@sentir.org
marthallano.wix.com/serna

HAGA ALGO........ lo que lo haga feliz!
Y tan sólo recuerde que las soluciones a problemas globales dependen de cada individuo.

Rachael Maddock-Hughes's picture

Powerful

As always Martha, your stories bring tears to my eyes. Your voice is like a slow rolling thunder, gathering power with every new sentence you put down. Thank you for sharing this story with us, I can hear the passion and the determination in your voice, even thousands of miles away.

Kind regards,

Rachael

"In every human heart there are a few passions that last a lifetime. They're with us from the moment we're born, and nothing can dilute their intensity." Rob Brezny

martha llano's picture

Thunder

Dear Rachel,

Life in this developing countries is like a thunder storm, every day is like every new sentence you said I have written....I write from the bottom of my heart and it comes with so much pain and love that I may know why you said you can feel my passion and determination.

Thanks for writing me

Martha

Con afecto

Martha Llano
selva@sentir.org
marthallano.wix.com/serna

HAGA ALGO........ lo que lo haga feliz!
Y tan sólo recuerde que las soluciones a problemas globales dependen de cada individuo.

olutosin's picture

It is Well!

Thanks so much Darling for this piece. You have spoken and you spoke so well. I read about this from Sister Janice Wong and re-reading it again, I feeel so familiar with the article.
Your voice has gone so far and rang through all the continents, like that of a town crier.
Hmmn...Thank You.

Olutosin Oladosu Adebowale
Founder/Project Coordinator
Star of Hope Transformation Centre
512 Road
F Close
Festac Town
Lagos-Nigeria

https:

martha llano's picture

Thanks

To speak sometimes isnt easy but is healing.....

Con afecto

Martha Llano
selva@sentir.org
marthallano.wix.com/serna

HAGA ALGO........ lo que lo haga feliz!
Y tan sólo recuerde que las soluciones a problemas globales dependen de cada individuo.

Nusrat Ara's picture

Well done!

Dear Martha,

When u have to reply to a comment click on reply this way one who has commented gets to know about ur reply otherwise she doesn't know.

An excellent piece. Here in Kashmir we also have this problem but I guess the magnitude of yours is biggers. May better sense prevail soon and things change for better.

Love

Nusrat

martha llano's picture

Hoping

Dear Nusrat,

Hopefully one day everything will come to a peaceful end everywhere.......Kashmir what a dream....I wish everything there comes soon to pacific ways to solve this situations.

Thanks for writing and your advice although I have done that every time I reply.

Love

Martha

Con afecto

Martha Llano
selva@sentir.org
marthallano.wix.com/serna

HAGA ALGO........ lo que lo haga feliz!
Y tan sólo recuerde que las soluciones a problemas globales dependen de cada individuo.

Nusrat Ara's picture

See was was notified of ur

See was was notified of ur reply like u will be.

See ur reply to my comment is diff from the rest. It is a way away from the left margin. That is y I told u to use that button as I could figure out u hadn't used earlier.

When one is notified of the reply to comment only then one reads it otherwise it remains unread. This helps building a connection :))))

Love

Nusrat

Breese's picture

Impresionante

Martha - Gracias por compartir esta realidad tan triste con nosotros. Me inspira con su pasion, coraje, y elocuencia. Colombia has so much beauty and strength despite all its troubles, and I hope the violence comes to an end soon.

peace,
Breese

martha llano's picture

Realidad

Breese

Esta realidad es dura, dolorosa, que me arrebata el aliento, me roba la vida, me deja detenida en un tiempo sin fin, sin vivir y muriendo lentamente.

Gracia por escribir

Martha

Con afecto

Martha Llano
selva@sentir.org
marthallano.wix.com/serna

HAGA ALGO........ lo que lo haga feliz!
Y tan sólo recuerde que las soluciones a problemas globales dependen de cada individuo.

WILDKat's picture

Felicitaciones Y buen suerte

Espero que le vaya bien en Los Estado Unidos, Martha!
May you days in the States be filled to the brim with inspiration both flowing to and from you.
We are so pleased for your success and wish for you great impact on your journey!

Naturally grateful,
Kat Haber

"Know thyself." ~ Plato

martha llano's picture

Impact

Dear Kat,

I am still shaking....it feels so good...so honor...I know my journey there will be very good for all. for the people I work with, for the ones that work with the other women, for the ones that we will meet....for all.

Thanks for your words.

Grateful

Martha

Con afecto

Martha Llano
selva@sentir.org
marthallano.wix.com/serna

HAGA ALGO........ lo que lo haga feliz!
Y tan sólo recuerde que las soluciones a problemas globales dependen de cada individuo.

Hello Martha,
I would love to be able to come to Columbia if it were possible and work on meaningful projects and ideas. I was born in US and had a different type of childhood as well.I now reside in BC which is facing environmental disasters as well. I have met and made friends with people from columbia here and also from Peru and El salvador. If you ever want to come here I will be glad to help and offer you a room in my home. I have strong ties to many communities and University groups let me know what we can do in solidarity with what you are doing

Gracias

Diane Dillon

martha llano's picture

Thanks to you

Hi Diane,

When ever you want to you could also come home to work on meaningful ideas and projects. That is what we do every day here.

Where is BC?

Love

Martha

Con afecto

Martha Llano
selva@sentir.org
marthallano.wix.com/serna

HAGA ALGO........ lo que lo haga feliz!
Y tan sólo recuerde que las soluciones a problemas globales dependen de cada individuo.

Magazine »

Read global coverage through women's eyes

Letters to a Better World

Letters to a Better World

Community »

Connect with women on the ground worldwide

womenspace's picture

CAMBODIA: Ordinary Women Can Make a Difference

Campaigns »

Be heard at influential forums

WWW: Women Weave the Web

WWW: Women Weave the Web

Programs »

Help us train women citizen journalists

World Pulse Voices of Our Future

World Pulse Voices of Our Future

Partners »

Join forces with our wide network of partners

Nobel Women's Initiative

Nobel Women's Initiative