Many articles we read describe stories children and youths whose lives have been transformed through participation in programs implemented by different organizations working in the area of children and youth development.
This article aims to also depict some of those stories, the difference being that these youths have also decided to take more of an active role in generating a change so the communities where they live are safer and more catered to children and youth needs.
From a local youth forum to sitting with the country´s president to discuss about child labor - Uruguay.
Mathias is 14 years old he has been participating in the initiatives undertaken by the organization Gurises Unidos from Montevideo, Uruguay, since he is twelve.
This is where, in addition to participating in cultural and recreational activities, he found a place to express himself and discuss about different issues that affect his life, his school and his community. Because of this commitment and active participation in these spaces, at the beginning of this year Mathias was chosen as one of the 350 Uruguayan youths who participated in the consultative process leading to the drafting of the "Little Instructions XII year." These were drafted after an extensive process of assemblies and meetings that took place in many public secondary schools and where issues related to child labor were discussed. The instructions (or recommendations) were read one by one in front of the President of the Oriental Republic of Uruguay, Jose Mujica, who also a received a scroll with them written on. Mathias was in charge of giving closure to this event, representing the children and adolescents from Uruguay.
For Mathias this was an unforgettable event "It was very exciting to be sitting next to the president and to know that he cares for what we think. I´ve also invited him to visit our school, so he can see how we work, I hope he will come ... "
This event took place in the context of the International Day against Child Labour, an event where more than 200 youths from across the country participated along with local and national authorities.
Photo: Leonardo Perla / Main photo: http://www.presidencia.gub.uy
From community activist to a representative of the voice of the Dominican Republic Youth - Dominican Republic.
Noranyi, is 18 years and since she is 10 she participates in various activities implemented by Caminante Proyecto Educativo.
She began participating in tutoring sessions in the community of Andres, a suburb of Boca Chica with high levels of violence. Years later, Noranyi became part of the youth group and, because of her leadership qualities, was chosen to participate in various national and international events representing her peers.
The last event she attended was held in Lima, Peru and was organized by Plan and Redlamyc and held in parallel to the Expert Consultation on Prevention of and Response to Violence against Children in Early Childhood.
Children and adolescents from Costa Rica, Honduras, Paraguay, El Salvador and Peru participated in the event and had the chance to reflect and discuss about the violence they are exposed to in their countries and the impact this has on their lives.
Noranyi said about it, "For me it was a very meaningful and enriching experience since I had the opportunity to make new friends and learn about other cultures and issues that affect children of different countries were represented. I also had the opportunity to explain to the experts on situations of violence about the situations to which the children and youth in the Dominican Republic are exposed to. "
Photo: Yesica Rosario
From Managua´s markets to Managua´s streets to fight for youth rights - Nicaragua.
Marcos is now 17 years old and is one of many youth to have participated in the programs of Nicaraguan NGO INPRHU.
"I first heard about INPRHU´s work when I was 8 and working daily to help my family in a market in Managua. This was when, without realizing it, my life began to change".
Despite the fact that in Nicaragua the “Code of Childhood and Adolescents” has been in place since 1998 many children and youth work while many others suffer from daily occurrences of violence.
Child labor is one of the reasons why the net rate of primary school attendance at 73% is, according to UNESCO, one of the lowest in Latin America.
In view of this situation, some months ago, Marco joined a demonstration where more hundreds of children and youth that work in the Managua´s markets participated to demand for their right to education.
During this demonstration also organized by INPRHU, they demanded for more secondary schools and requested for their rights to play and education to be respected. The demonstration also aimed to create awareness about the approximately 2300 children and youth that today work in Managua´s markets.
Marcos concluded, "This situation must change, youth must not be denied the right to education because they have to engage in child labor. We must defend our right to education".
From street carnival demonstrations to discussions about Children Rights in Sao Paulo - Brazil.
In Sao Bernardo do Campo, Sao Paulo, Brazil, 6 young female youth involved in the activities of Projeto Meninos e Meninas de Rua were chosen to participate in a meeting that gathered children and adolescents with the objective of evaluating the implementation of the International Convention on the Rights of the child.
This meeting was attended by 120 children from different cities of the Greater Sao Paulo whom focused mostly on assessing issues related to the right to life, the right to education, the right to health and the right to participation.
Besides the fact that for some of them this was the first time they participated in an event like this one, many of them know and understand what is to take part in events to defend their rights because of their participation in the group EURECA (For "I acknowledge the Statute of Children and Adolescents "in Portuguese). The group uses the power of the carnival to raise awareness and speak out on issues affecting children and young people of Sao Paulo. Neia Bueno, the area coordinator commented “We really believe that the participation of young people in the EURECA encourages them to talk about issues that affect them and helps them realize that through the songs and banners they create, their message can be heard by the public and the authorities".
Because of their involvement in these events is that these girls were chosen to be part of the regional query.
Photo: Alan Silva