Constanza Ardila Galvis

Ashoka Fellow
Bogota, Colombia
Fellow Since 1997


This profile was prepared when Constanza Ardila Galvis was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 1997.
The New Idea
Constanza Ardila is working to halt Colombia's cycle of violence through a new pedagogical model which trains people to develop a culture of peace. Her work is based on the recollection and recuperation of childhood traumas, opening and sensitizing individuals to the dangerous consequences of continued violence. She believes that only by recognizing the damage done to them by prevailing educational models and political structures can the victims of violence rehabilitate themselves, avoid hostile actions like the ones encountered in their childhood environments, and learn new ways of existing in peace and respect.

Constanza's model trains people who have influence in the formation of children, including teachers in the formal educational system, community child-care workers, police, and military authorities. It challenges the dominant educational paradigm which demands blind obedience from students, and the repression of emotions. Instead, students are encouraged to relive past experiences under the guidance of trained leaders from within the community. Because it is not possible to bring psychiatrists to all of Colombia's population which have been the victims of political violence, Constanza relies instead on "social therapists." Because the model does not depend only on doctors and psychiatrists, it is able to reach a much larger population.

Most institutional projects directed towards the victims of political violence have not attempted to alter the pedagogical roots of violence or change the culture of violence in which children grow up. They have been concerned largely with the denunciation of human rights abuses and violent acts. Others have implemented a model of assistance to respond to immediate needs such as housing, clothing, and food for a few months after political violence or displacement, without addressing the context which perpetuates a culture of violence. State and private institutions focus only on the political and economic causes of the violence which affects rich and poor, regardless of their politics. Constanza maintains that the causes of violence are found in a culture sustained by educational models and family and societal relationships. Even with economic improvements and the resolution of the civil war, if the pedagogical formation of children is not changed, then the country's cycle of violence will never be broken. Only when these structures are altered with a new pedagogical model will violence in Colombia diminish significantly.
The Problem
The Strategy
The Person

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