With negotiations under way for a future peace deal in Colombia, UNICEF has obtained a rare interview with a young woman just released from an armed group after spending 6 years in the jungle. In her words, this is her story.
Things were bad at home, so bad that I lost the will to live. I thought if I joined an armed group, I would get killed.
I first ran away from home when I was 12. I went on to live with a friend. My mother would sometimes come and get me, but I would leave again.
When I was 15 I got pregnant. Having a baby is a big responsibility. I didn’t know what to do.
There were always guerrilleros in my village. I had seen them a few times and I decided to join them. It took me days to reach their camp.
At first I didn’t like it there, but then I met someone. We were together for a year before he was killed in battle. He was in another location and I only learned about his death six months later.
When I joined, my daughter was still a baby. I wasn’t there during the first years of her life and I will never get that time back. I would often call home to ask about her. But it’s not the same.
Now that I’m back, she wants to be with me all the time. She tells me she loves me and begs me not to leave her again. When she says that, I go to my room and start crying. I haven’t been a mother to her.
It’s very important to have a partner there. It can be of great support. When we have to move, a partner can help you carry your load. Partners live together and if one of them has to go on mission, they can wait for each other if they’re in love. But men don’t wait for women.
The first time I was in a battle I was very scared because I didn’t know how to handle a gun.
Sometimes I would cry and pray to God to give me strength to carry on. It’s not a good place for children or even adults. People don’t know how hard it is. If you can’t defend yourself, you can die.
One day there was an explosion. We were surrounded by soldiers and helicopters were flying above us. I thought I was going to die. But I didn’t want to die. And I didn’t want to go to jail. I don’t know how or where I got the energy, but I managed to escape.
I thought about my mother then. My death would have been a major blow to her.
Once, I was almost killed. A bullet flew right over my head. I still have a scar.
I wouldn’t go back there. I want to move on with my life. The years I spent there were wasted. When you leave, you have to start from scratch.
My message to young people who want to do what I did? That they need to think really hard first. You don’t just join and that’s it. It’s a big responsibility. If you do any damage, they will do things to you that you wouldn’t like.
Angelina (not her real name), 23