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Youth advocate for their own positive change

POSTED December 3, 2018

Youth advocate for their own positive change

Our Paraguay programs give children and youth skills to participate in decisions impacting their future

By Rosanna E. Menchaca, communications manager, Paraguay

Paraguay Angeles L der Gianna

Children and youth are never too young to make a difference in their world. That became clear in December 2016 when ADDNA — Spanish for Association in Defence of the Rights of Childhood and Adolescence — was created by children from our Paraguay programs.

This group has become a haven where children and youth feel supported, listened to, protected and part of the solution to addressing community challenges. They understand their rights and advocate for issues such as protection from violence.

In the past, a child’s right to participate in decisions about their future was limited to singing or sharing poetry during a school event, among other activities. This may be because most parents in Paraguay grew up during a dictatorship and had little experience participating for change.

Now, as youth understand their opinions matter, parents and other adults are learning, too. At Christian Children’s Fund of Canada, we’re committed to being part of that change.

“At the community level, the right to participate has progressively changed from being a ‘concession of adults’ to a right,” explains Diego Martínez, our program manager in Paraguay.

Do not ever think you cannot do things. Everyone has potential. — Ángeles, 17

Youth are noticing the difference. “By seeing the reality of the country, of our society, we can [advocate for] change,” notes Líder (above, centre), an 18-year-old from one of our programs.

Indeed, youth are developing leadership skills and self-esteem. Ángeles (above, left), 17, is an example of that. Her peers chose her to represent them at a global violence-prevention meeting, hosted by the World Health Organization and the Government of Canada in 2017, and in 2018 she travelled to Sweden for a global summit about ending violence against children.

Ángeles spoke at the 2017 summit, saying, “When I was 10, our committee of children and adolescents was formed, and, from that moment, I began to open up, until I even represented my community in activities,” she said. “Do not ever think you cannot do things. Everyone has the potential to do what he or she [wants].”

It’s why we advocate for child protection and participation. In fact, we’ve been strengthening the National Network of Children and Adolescents, who along with ADDNA and other groups, confer with Paraguay’s government to discuss childhood policies and investments in the sector.

Ángeles sums it up best: “If you want to do something for us, the most logical step is to do it with us.”

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Children Believe works globally to empower children to dream fearlessly, stand up for what they believe in — and be heard. For 60+ years, we’ve brought together brave young dreamers, caring supporters and partners, and unabashed idealists. Together, we’re driven by a common belief: creating access to education — inside and outside of classrooms — is the most powerful tool children can use to change their world.

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