“Boys and girls don’t know many things about the world and that’s why our minds are more open to imagine things”, was the answer that an 8-year-old girl gave her teacher when they talked about what imagination was. one
This phrase is representative of what it means to be a boy or a girl: the unlimited capacity to create possible realities of living, which take shape in what we call imagination, a word that always accompanies the idea of what girls and boys are. Fortunately for adults, they are always there to remind us of the need to reconnect with creativity, with flexibility, with freedom of thought, the ability to live and the possibility of imagining and believing in what we build.
They are a group that has very important things to say, fantasy lives with them and they not as something illusory, but as the possibility of looking beyond the limited quadrature of adult-centrism. Understanding this intrinsic value of girls and boys is essential to recognize that they are subjects of rights, that from adulthood we have the obligation to protect them, provide the conditions conducive to their development and recognize their legitimacy in the present, wherever they are.
In Mexico, they make up a third of the national population. Until 2020 there were more than 38 million children and adolescents in our country. They and they are diverse, with different contexts, identities and dreams. Of the total, almost 3 million live with a disability, 2 million speak an indigenous language and more than 700 thousand consider themselves Afro-descendants, just to consider some demographic characteristics; To this we must add sexual diversity, gender identity, culture, place of origin and a huge blanket of identity elements that make up the richness of the childhood fabric.
So that each and one of them, from their diversity, can exercise their rights as holders of these, and not as objects of protection and assistance, the participation and commitment of all institutional sectors and people is required. In Mexico there have been significant advances in the legal framework to establish the foundations of a State that guarantees the rights of children and adolescents. There are laws, institutional programs and a national system and state systems for the comprehensive protection of children and adolescents (SIPINNA) and attorneys’ offices for the protection of children and adolescents.
But there is also the reality that goes beyond us and that attacks the fulfillment and respect for their rights, and exposes the institutional fragility and cultural normalization of systemic violence in their family, school and/or community context. The lack of access to social security is the most prevalent among children and adolescents; Even before the pandemic, more than 60% of this population did not have access to this right. two In addition, last year was one of the most violent for them and them. More than 27 thousand 700 crimes were registered against him. There were 7 homicides daily and every day at least 37 girls and boys suffered physical violence, 3 this without counting the many cases that are not identified or reported. This year there was an increase of 83.62% in reports of family violence compared to 2015 (233, 978 in total), 4 this without counting those who are not reported. In addition to this, in the last five years child labor and its worst forms have reached 3.3 million girls, boys and adolescents working under the minimum age to do so or in dangerous activities prohibited by law.
The country is not only violent for children and adolescents who were born in it, but also for those who arrive and pass through here. During 2021, more than 75,500 children and adolescents in an irregular migratory situation arrived in Mexico 5 and in conditions of insecurity; Several face various challenges that put their lives, integrity and freedom at risk, particularly due to the use of military force in immigration control actions. This forces them to take more dangerous routes and with a greater presence of criminal organizations dedicated to human trafficking, drug trafficking, kidnapping, extortion, among others.
In the particular case of girls and adolescents, gender-based violence is added. The constant risk of suffering sexual assault, being victims of sexual exploitation, in addition to the financial insecurity and emotional abuse that they often face in their family and/or community contexts, sometimes makes them believe that marrying or uniting with a partner is the only option to secure a future. Last year there were 9 femicides of girls and adolescents per month. 6 In 2020, more than 8,800 girls between the ages of 12 and 14 became mothers 7 and in 2021 alone, 259 girls and adolescent victims of trafficking were registered. 8 These are just a few examples that reflect the abuses they face that define or interrupt their life trajectories.
All of the above limits and hurts the imagination of those children and adolescents who stop finding peace, respect and tenderness in their context. He repeats to them, through actions, that their dreams are limited and that their life is not built by them, but by someone else. That their imagination can be defined by violence, blows and abuse, or that they only came to this world to produce, at whatever cost.
To reverse this situation, we need to change the cultural paradigm we are facing; but, above all, the State must strengthen, and not weaken, the institutions and public policies that are aimed at addressing these problems. The above has not been the case. The austerity policy has left numerous ministries and departments without the human, technical and material resources necessary to carry out fundamental government functions, which for many years have presented a significant weakness. If policies are not generated with a sufficient budget for their implementation, and if as a society we do not make a cultural change that encourages the voice and participation of children and adolescents, we will not be able to achieve the Mexico that they imagine and have the right to live.
A few months ago Eduardo, an 11-year-old boy from Puebla, said in a message: “Listen to us, you might be surprised at how much fun the world of children is.” It is our obligation to guarantee that we listen to them, and that we effectively take them into account, so that we ensure that their context allows them to continue creating realities based on that wealth of imagination. Otherwise, we hurt ourselves as a society.
It is with this commitment that from Save the Children we make a call to respond to the complexity of the current context:
- Generate and implement an Emergency Program to Prevent, Address, Punish and Eradicate all forms of Violence against children and adolescents.
- Urgently strengthen the comprehensive protection systems for children and adolescents and the institutional capacities of the Attorney General’s Offices, the Public Ministries and the Child Protection Attorney’s Offices, to manage in a coordinated and efficient manner the cases of violation of the rights of the childhood integrating the gender perspective.
- Guarantee the prompt delivery of justice for all cases of children and adolescents who have been affected by violence, forced marriages, disappeared or murdered.
- Establish measures to guarantee the non-repetition of serious human rights violations.
- Improve the capacity of public institutions to identify and attend to cases of risk for girls and boys in their family and community environments, establish alternative care measures, work with families to achieve reintegration, and guarantee effectiveness in the restitution of their rights. have been violated.
- Define and implement prevention strategies that address the structural causes of violence: family strengthening; eradication of gender roles and stereotypes that limit their development, promotion of nurturing with tenderness, peaceful resolution of conflicts and the construction of a culture of equality and peace; communication campaigns that make the situation visible and generate awareness and transformation of patriarchal practices and attitudes that violate girls, boys and women; guarantee a family and community environment conducive to the protection, well-being and development of children, which implies strategies to combat poverty.
- Involve society and the media in these actions, to prevent violence against children from becoming normalized.
- Implement a national policy to prevent and eradicate child labor, which includes specific actions that address its structural causes, in order to achieve its disappearance by 2025 and an improvement in the quality of life of thousands of children and adolescents.
* Save the Children is the leading independent organization promoting and defending the rights of children and adolescents. It works in more than 120 countries, serving emergency situations and development programs. Support boys and girls to have a healthy and safe childhood. In Mexico, it has been working since 1973 with health and nutrition, education, protection and defense programs for the rights of children and adolescents, within the framework of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child.
two CONEVAL (2020), 19.5 million children and adolescents were in a situation of poverty in 2018, p. 1. Available here.
3 Executive Secretariat of the National Public Security System (2021), Criminal incidence of victims, Available here.
4 Alleged family violence crimes in 2015: 127,424; 2016: 153,893; 2017: 169,579; 2018: 180,187; 2019: 210,188; 2020: 220,031 and from January to November 2021: 233,978; in Executive Secretariat of the National Public Security System (2021), Information on violence against women. Crime incidence and emergency calls 9-1-1, available here.
5 Migration Policy Unit (UPM), Annual Statistics Bulletin 2021. Table 3.1.3 and 3.1.5. Available here.
7 Inmujeres (2021), the Government presents a campaign for the prevention and eradication of pregnancy in children, adolescents and youth. Available here.
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We owe the girls and boys the country they imagine