|  DISPATCH: August 28||Silvia's Log|
Youth, Know Your Rights!
"Before coming to Casa Alianza, I didnt know what my rights were. Now I can express what before I only felt. By informing us about our rights, Casa Alianza is helping us to create a better future. Now I know that we are all equal."
On November 20, 1989, the General Assembly of the United Nations approved the Rights of the Child. In October of 1990 Mexico formally approved its own Convention of the Rights of the Child. It contains all of the laws in Mexico about Youth Rights. It is intended to sensitize society about youth rights, especially with relation to street children because people generally have very bad opinions about street youth and treat them VERY poorly.
Just this year, in the first 4 months, there has been a 50% increase in violations against street children compared with the first 4 months of last year. These actions threaten family unity, and ultimately society as a whole.
"Conventions are good because they make the rights of the child known so that they wont be violated against. I think that if people know about these rights, they wouldnt violate them. Rights on paper have a real meaning for humans. The most important ones for me are the right to life and freedom of expression. Grown-ups think that children shouldnt give their opinions, but we do have things to say. Our opinion counts."
Prostitution among young girls is common, and there are more females in the street now than there used to be. For every 10 street children, 7 are males and 3 are females. Just ten years ago, 9 were males and 1 was female.
"Our parents abused us and abandoned us, but they are responsible for giving us housing and schooling. We need their support because we are still very young."
Casa Alianzas lawyer, Ms. Adriana Lopez Castanon, has her desk just next to the street educators room. She works directly with the minors the street educators contact to inform them, defend them when they are unjustly accused, and help them acquire a birth certificate when they do not have one. An individuals birth MUST be registered for that person to be recognized judicially; without a birth certificate it is as if one doesnt exist in the eyes of the law.
Casa Alianza has an agreement with the police so when they capture youth accused of doing something wrong, the police wont take the minors away under arrest, but instead bring them to the Crisis Center or a group home, even if they are under the effects of drugs. Counselors at either place will make sure these minors get to another place where they will be attended to adequately, as opposed to spending a night in a jail cell. Some police go along with this agreement, others do not.
Another response has been the creation of a female "preventative police force" who keep an eye out for these street children and defend them from abuse by the police. Usually the kids dislike male policemen, but feel more affection for and trust the female guards. It probably has to do with their maternal instinct, they say.
I am inviting the youth here to share with me their ideas about what rights are most important to them. Ill share them with you on the "Trek Connect Message Board" so you can see what they think. It would be nice if they can see what you think too. So please visit the "Trek Connect Message Board" and write your opinion for everyone to see. Ill have the kids here write back to you!
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