Oftentimes our experiences and struggles with the absence of a thing most valuable spurs our biggest life pursuits. That is the case with Yira Marcela Godoy’s quest to understand and build peace in as many spaces as possible. It started with her family’s victimization by the state in her home country of Colombia and made her more and more aware of inequalities that exist at a local level. From high school and onward, she studied the subject of peace with fervor reading all she could.  One author who was a major influence was Nobel laureate Gabriel García Márquez who said during his Nobel Prize speech in Spanish, “To oppression, plundering and abandonment, we respond with life.” 

Through her work with different organizations, Yira witnessed the complexities and significance of the different roles that community, civil society, and government play in society. This further opened the door to a move to Basel, Switzerland in 2016. Yira became the youngest woman to enter into the Civilian Peacebuilding program that year. The program is offered by swisspeace and University of Basel.  Over the course of the program, she was encouraged by her classmates to found Primavera de Paz.  They felt there was a lack of spaces to talk about peacebuilding with young people.  She first established the organization, whose name  means “Spring of Peace”, in the city of Fribourg to offer spaces where citizens can learn from each other and build sustainable, inspiring and creative initiatives. One of her first and most important lessons learned at the beginning of Primavera de Paz is that one has to first engage at an emotional level if you want people to engage on the long-term to connect with others and pursue social action.  

Since its inception almost three years ago, Primavera de Paz has been growing in a beautiful way with the help of Yira, two other core team members, and six volunteers who are all immigrants. One of their first events was to have a forum in conjunction with Switzerland’s Sustainability Week to discuss sustainable music, exploring ways to hold concerts and festivals in a way that supports the environment and sustainable practices.  Yira finds it most inspiring to see young people taking the example from one part of the world to enact change in another part of the world.  After speaking at the Humans Rights Council about young people in Colombia camping in the main square in Bogotá to pressure the government to keep negotiating for peace, Yira was excited to see young people in Bern, the capital of Switzerland, camping to promote climate change.  

Primavera de Paz continues to organize and promote in-person and online forums to foster dialogue on solutions to various issues such as major conflicts in the world, labor rights, and specific human rights struggles. Recently, she was invited to Yverdon-les-Bains to talk about how her story brought her to lead Primavera de Paz today, and what’s her analysis on the Colombian peace agreement. Stay tuned for two major Facebook Live events in the planning stages, the first one about the anniversary of the Colombian peace agreement, it will be with two young experts based in Sweden and Germany. The second one exploring how using music is fundamental tool building peace with special guests Swiss-German rapper MzumO and Colombian musician César López, who invented the instrument Escopetarra, a guitar created from a modified gun used as a peace symbol. 

Building peace starts at the ground level with everyday citizens taking small actions for social change whether it is consuming less meat, considering how they travel, or speaking out against wrongs they see in their community.  Yira believes in doing as much as she can with what she has. More and more she is having young people in different parts of the globe asking to recreate the model of Primavera de Paz to help engage their own communities.  Her mission in life is embodied by a famous quote by Che Guevara translated from Spanish, “Dream and you will be free in spirit, fight and you will be free in life.” 

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