Mexico Trek!   Trekkers DISPATCH: August 28 Silvia's Log

Youth, Know Your Rights!

"Before coming to Casa Alianza, I didn’t 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."
- Lizzet Arizmendi Hernandez, 16 years old

Youth Connect!
Youth Unite!

Share your opinion on youth rights with everyone on the Trek Connect page!

Then take some time to do something right now that can help street youth in Mexico and beyond, on the Making a Difference page!

Children living in the streets are struggling to survive to make it through another night. Shunned by society, most of them do not imagine that they have legal rights as individuals of that same society. One of Casa Alianza’s street educators has created a working group around this issue so that children can study this issue together and empower themselves

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 won’t be violated against. I think that if people know about these rights, they wouldn’t 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 shouldn’t give their opinions, but we do have things to say. Our opinion counts."
Rodrigo Martinez Absalon, 16 years old

So why do these homeless children choose to leave their homes? Many of them are mistreated by their parents, either physically, mentally, or intellectually. Some parents force the children to go out into the streets to work, and then take the money they earn away from them to buy alcohol or drugs, using their children to support their vicious habits. So often the child decides to work in the street and support him or herself instead. This is not a happy ending, though, because the child leaves the abuse at home to be faced with another kind outside- abuse by authorities and the cold indifference of people walking by, and drug use amongst themselves.

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."
Rocio Elena Marquez Perez, 14 years old

What are some of the ways Casa Alianza, the organization I work with here, helping?

Casa Alianza’s 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 individual’s birth MUST be registered for that person to be recognized judicially; without a birth certificate it is as if one doesn’t 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 won’t 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.

"The police don’t respect our rights as children, but we have the same rights as adults do."
Rocio Elena Marquez Perez, 14 years old

I am inviting the youth here to share with me their ideas about what rights are most important to them. I’ll 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. I’ll have the kids here write back to you!

Gracias,

-Silvia

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