Children's rights
› What we do › Children's rights
    PHOTO: Sean Hawkey

    Latin America is the most unequal region in the world and this inequality affects half of the continent's children. In order to help feed their families, many children begin working before they reach age 10. The International Labor Organization estimates that there are approximately 9 million children and youth exposed to forced labor in the region.


    Some children and youth go out to work to escape drug use and violence at home, only to be exposed to the same on the streets, where they often end up living. These children are particularly vulnerable to sexual abuse, exploitation and other forms of violence. Despite the fact that violence affects some 6 million children it is an issue still largely ignored by the public and government officials, making its eradication all the more difficult.


    CWS in the region

    CWS works with local organizations to protect vulnerable children from all forms of violence and to expand opportunities to at-risk youth in some of the poorest and most violent communities of Haiti, Dominican Republic, Nicaragua, Brazil and Uruguay. The five countries involved represent four of the major sub-regions and political and socio-cultural contexts of Latin America-Caribbean.


    Our partner organizations have been chosen because of the quality of their programs and their commitment to the defence and promotion of children´s rights. Each has demonstrated its ability to leverage local resources and participation. Their services are holistic, address the root causes of problems, and are closely linked with local advocacy.


    They exercise leadership and influence in their communities and their local networks and at the same time are open and generous about sharing their insights, contacts and methodologies, which is a key to the success of the exchanges and other regional initiatives CWS promotes.


    Until 2012 these organizations were part of a CWS Regional Children's Program. You can read the 2011 report here or visit this link to find out about its main achievements.

    PHOTO: Silvia Varela

    Despite the fact that the prison population in Latin America comes to approximately 1.2 million, the issue of children of incarcerated parents has been so far invisible. Understanding more about the life as well as the rights of Latin American children with incarcerated parents represents an urgent challenge for states, civil society, communities and families.

    The UN Committee on the Rights of the Child recognized this by dedicating its Day of General Discussion 2011 to the "low level of general knowledge about [the situation of] children of incarcerated parents".

    With the technical leadership of Uruguayan NGO, Gurises Unidos, CWS and its regional children´s program partners carried out the first regional study on the subject, in line with the recommendations made by the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child. The study so far has helped us to:

    • Understand the impact of incarceration of parents on the different aspects of the life and rights of the children served by our partners.
    • Identify the main policies, programs, initiatives and support services from governments and civil society available to this group and survey the children´s perception of them.
    • Begin to raise awareness of the issue in local and regional civil society networks and contribute to the debate and design of public policy and appropriate government responses.


    The study was based on two components:

    • Generation of socio-demographic data and basic information on all families with incarcerated family members served by the participating organizations.
    • Review of relevant secondary sources.


    To view the executive summary, please follow this link.

    To view a 20 page summary of the full report (in English), please follow this link.

    To view the full report (in Spanish), please follow this link.


    Parallel to the study, CWS has also contacted and engaged with different regional actors, organizations and research centers specialized in this or in related topics such as security, prison policies or programs for children. These exchanges also contributed to some of the findings of the study.

    Following publication of the report, the program will now:

    • Continue creating and disseminating knowledge about the reality of children of incarcerated parents including a regional campaign to raise awareness of their situation.
    • Encourage the participation of these children and youth in order for their voice to be heard.


    We hope that this initiative will enable children and adolescents with incarcerated parents and their caregivers become key players in the defense of their rights, and ensure that their specific needs are taken into account in the formulation, implementation and evaluation of public policies.

    PHOTO: Aaron Tate

    Since 2009, CWS has promoted exchanges between organizations in Haiti and its other partners in Latin America specialized in the defense and protection of the rights of children. Activities so far include:

    • Visits by representatives of children´s programs partners from Brazil, Uruguay, Dominican Republic and Nicaragua to Haiti to visit children´s rights organizations and participate in events such as a public mobilization on Restavek Day.
    • Representatives of Haitian Children´s rights organizations participated in events and meetings of the Regional Children´s Program in Brazil and the Dominican Republic as well as regional conferences.


    You can learn more about this work here: (Link to Doc being finalized)


    During 2013 CWS has been facilitating a three year planning process with Dominican and Haitian organizations which will includes the following activities:

    • Knowledge exchanges between children, youth and adults.
    • Joint advocacy actions on children´s rights and issues related to statelessness.
    • Provide assistance to Haitian youth and families living in the DR to get their official identification documents in Haiti.
    PHOTO: Alan Silva

    CWS believes that for an organization to grow it is important that it has the time and resources to focus on areas such as communications, strategic planning, fundraising and the office environment in which their staff work. We believe that improving these aspects of an organization leads to an improvement in the quantity and quality of the services they provide to children and their communities.


    The Children´s Program partners have extensive experience working in the defense and protection of the rights of children. They are well known in their countries and regions and have demonstrated their capacity to implement programs that can truly change the lives of the children, youth and families they work with.


    CWS is supporting the strengthening of these organizations through providing them with support for "overheads" which over the next three years will contribute to:

    • Improving communication strategies, tools and platforms.
    • Strategic planning processes.
    • Implementation of new fundraising strategies.
    • Building or improving facilities in the communities where they work.
    • Improve the environment in which their staff work.


    By supporting these processes, we believe that more than 3000 children and 1200 families will benefit from better programs and services.