Empowering Children to Become Community Leaders
| May 29, 2014
Transforming a community’s culture takes time and patience, especially when the community is spread out over many miles of rough terrain. But all you need are a few champions to create some momentum. In Tarabuco, Bolivia, tenacious and resilient “Community Supporters” are educating adults and children on how to prevent abuse and improve rights.
The town of Potosi has a thriving industry due to the vast silver mines located in this region. However, the money generated from the mine is also a direct result of putting young children to work. Sometimes children as young as 8 can be found working at the mine. It may not always be hard labor or involve long hours, but I still find it unacceptable for an 8-year-old to stand outside of the mine from midnight to 3 am selling cigarettes to employees. Unfortunately, families are forced to pull their children out of school so that they can make money and help put food on the table.
After speaking to the principal of the school located directly across the street from the mine, it was obvious that it is culturally acceptable in Potosi to have children this young working at or near the mine. I can accept that I should never push my own beliefs onto another culture or country. However, we can do our best to help demonstrate the benefits a nation will enjoy if they educate their children and put limits around working conditions. And we can certainly help improve health and wellness if we make sure our children aren’t spending so many hours within the proximity of the dust and dirt of a mine.
In Tarabuco the Municipal Child and Adolescent Defense Office (DNA in its Spanish acronym) works closely with the Community Child Rights Promoters. They have been trained with the UNICEF “Child Rights Backpack” to sensitize the indigenous communities on child protection in order to prevent and reduce violence and abuse against children.
This pack, carried by the promoter in this photo, is filled with training manuals that educate communities on how to prevent and manage abusive behavior. Kantar’s Brighter Futures program has helped UNICEF fund the creation of the backpack tools and resources.
DNA also trained schoolchildren to become child and adolescent rights promoters, mostly to prevent bullying. I had the privilege of meeting some of Bolivia’s brightest students, and they reminded me that all you need is the right to have a voice and you will use it with confidence and self-esteem. Here are some examples of how some children in Bolivia are making a difference at a young age.
- At one school in Tarabuco, Bolivia, students have elected two Super Defenders: Shirley, 11, and Carla, 12. They each campaigned for this responsibility and have taken it very seriously since taking office. These brave students shared stories about how they help their classmates communicate with the proper authorities when they need to lodge a complaint about a violation of their rights.
- In La Paz, the Centre for Bolivian Youth Education and Communication (ECO JÓVENES in its Spanish acronym) promotes and defends child and adolescent rights using information and communications technology (ICT) on a daily basis. This program empowers children and adolescents to take a leading role and exercise their rights vis-à-vis radio transmissions. As one student shared with us, “We the children have our rights and want the world to hear us.” ECO JÓVENES carries out communications strategies on urgent childhood issues such as commercial sexual violence, human trafficking, child labor, emergencies and natural disasters and the culture of good treatment, among others.
These are just examples of how advocates for improving child rights come from both traditional and non-traditional places. And through Kantar’s Brighter Futures campaign, community supporters can receive the tools they need to continue to improve these children’s lives.