Amada Benavides de Pérez

Primary Photo

Affiliated Organizations
  • President, Fundación Escuelas de Paz
  • Member, Global Campaign on Peace Education
  • Former member, United Nations Working Group on the use of mercenaries as a means of violating human rights and impeding the exercise of the right of peoples to self-determination - Office of the High Commissioner on Human Rights, Geneva. 2004 -2011
  • Member Advisory Board, Alianza Educación para la Construcción de Culturas de Paz, Colombia
  • Member CLAIP, Latin American Peace Research Association
  • President, Political scientists' association in Javeriana University, Colombia. 1998 - 2002

What are contexts and issues that you work on? How are you using peace education to address these issues? What keeps you going?

Colombia is a highly divided country for different reasons like the differences between urban and rural contexts. In urban scenarios you can find, between others, dissimilarities at economic levels, an inverted pyramid scale in the concentration of wealth with a little rich population and a big mass of people living at poverty or below poverty level, with few possibilities of democratic participation. Other issues, more related with rural contexts, are the concentration of land possession on the hands of the few, lack of development in many territories, and an underground racist society. Many of those divisions are the causes of 60 years of armed conflict, linked to other issues like drug trafficking, illegal mining and the renascence or appearance of new armed groups. Our peace education related goal is to empower the population in order for them to have more capacities to claim their rights and promote skills for constructing their individual and community life projects. Our job puts emphasis on young people, women, school environments and rural communities.

What has been your most meaningful or noteworthy moment in your peace education career?

What has inspired my work in peace education for more than 18 years is the conviction that human beings are not violent by nature, that cultural and mental change towards a culture of peace is possible, and that peace education is the most prompt way to support this effort worldwide. In 1997, after one of the crises Colombia was facing as an effect of multiple violences flogging our country, we decided with a group of teachers to create a program that would allow us, in our capacity as educators, to realize effective actions and to put our effort in the mitigation of violence and the search for peace. This venture was named Schools of Peace, and began as a classroom project.

Schools of Peace is composed by an interdisciplinary group of professionals dedicated to the culture of peace and human rights promotion. Peace education must be conceived as a new and independent field discipline from other social sciences and from pedagogy. It is established as an effective tool that transforms, first, every human being, his/her interpersonal relations and that, beyond the individual impact, it has an effect on personal, social, national and international relations.

How and why did you start working in peace education?

I started in 1997, when in Colombia a lot of massacres were occurring because of the fight between paramilitary forces, guerrilla fighters and Army Forces. I was questioning myself, as a secondary school teacher, about what we could do, as civil society and in the educational field, to transform that situation and how to involve youth and other colleagues in a civil movement for change. In 2001, we decided to turn into an NGO named Schools of Peace Foundation. Its mission concerns three different areas: the promotion of a culture of peace, peace education and human rights education. We have developed actions in diverse regions of Colombia, from the Guajira in the north to Nariño in the south. Since the beginning, we think that working through networks was very important and therefore we decided to connect with other entities, both national and international. There, we learned that we were not the only ones; the peace education movement was a large one and it was producing important changes worldwide.