BY AIXA MARÍN, CO-ORDINATOR OF RED VIVA MEXICO
Mexico is a country of enormous proportions and sharp contrasts. However, despite representing more than 30 per cent of the population, children here are barely noticeable in the statistics. This invisibility of childhood and adolescence has led authorities and society in general to a misconception: that the situation of children is better than that of adults.
The truth is than an estimated seven out of ten children in Mexico have suffered violence. The United Nations states that Mexico ranks sixth in terms of child homicides in Latin America. Much of the violence and child abuse in Mexico, which includes physical, sexual, psychological, discrimination and abandonment, remains hidden and sometimes is even socially approved.
The development phase of Viva’s child-focused partner network in Mexico City is growing through establishing personal links at 24 community centres and by ‘word of mouth’ contact with a further 200 community centres.
There is a recognised need in our churches to promote the family. That is why the network seeks to have this area of work as a priority: to strengthen Mexican families and to promote campaigns to treat children better.
Another situation identified across churches is the lack of organised and integrated work. There is a tendency to work as individuals. This is why we are organising ourselves permanently into an action group with the same programme to address the following four needs:
1. For the integration of members of the network (new and current)
2. For the consolidation of the mission and vision
3. To overcome the apathy that exists in the churches concerning working in a united and integrated way
4. To combat the risk that the pride of church leaders can impede cooperation.
At present, the strategy of how to implement the manual of tools for strengthening children and families is being developed.
The priority for the network is to achieve a comprehensive vision of children’s rights. An understanding is needed of the interrelation between rights and correlation across different issues. For example, water and sanitation is linked to nutrition, nutrition is linked to school dropouts, which in turn is linked to violence; violence is linked to safe and healthy environments, which in turn has much to do with poverty and social deprivation.
As a consequence of these efforts, there are committees within the national protection system that deal with specific issues that are now considering mechanisms to incorporate child participation. One of them is the commission to put an end to all forms of violence against children and young people. This is an area of work with greater participation of civil society and, in which, Red Viva Mexico seeks to operate and get involved.
The vision of the network is to take account of the fact that those children who are victims of mistreatment have a higher probability of being the subject of violence from their adolescence through to adulthood.
Interventions on behalf of the churches and specialised personnel must facilitate the development of parenting skills, increase parents’ sense of self-control and efficiency, and, thereby, generate trust from their children.
The ‘Why Families Matter’ tools which teach parents to recognise a broad repertoire of behaviour, skills and information to understand and react appropriately to their children, are significant.
Training also includes how to communicate with their children, how to negotiate family standards of behaviour, discipline children without violence and establish rewards that encourage a good adaptation to society.
The desired outcome will be a lasting and replicable change in the Mexican families who are members of the network, and we hope beyond that too.
Photos: Jonathan Levinson/IRIN, Encarni Pindado/IRIN, Paul Sableman