|Outreach N° 96 - Children in especially Difficult Circumstances - Part 1: Working and Street Children (OUTREACH - UNEP - WWF, 68 p.)|
From Ecuador: small people set a great example by Consuelo Arbornez in First Call for Children, A UNICEF Quarterly/1994/No. 3 (July-September, 1994)
SUGGESTIONS FOR USE
teachers, youth workers, environmental groups, community leaders, children: As inspiration for organising youth environmental improvement activities.
Children living in urban slums can help improve their environment, and give themselves hope for their future. The following article describes some children's efforts:
They are young, dynamic and 'green'. They are children and adolescents from 24 towns and cities in 21 provinces of Ecuador who have turned into committed and vigilant environmentalists.
As part of the 'Small People Set a Great Example campaign, sponsored by the Central Bank's Working Youth Programme and supported by UNICEF, 160 groups of children from poor communities are working on ways to clean up their environment.
Almost 50,000 children helped draft a plan of action to be implemented by the Ecuadorian Government as soon as it had ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child in 1990. In that plan, the children identified three main areas of concern: nutrition, lack of housing and deterioration of the environment. The government programme which emerged from this initiative is designed to ensure children their right to a healthy environment.
Recently, young Ecuadorians, who form 38 per cent of the country's population of 11 million, have been active in understanding and demanding their rights. In 1990, 186,000 children voted in a children's election, which was followed by the first National Children's Summit in 1991.
This Summit encouraged the young participants to launch new activities in Quito, the capital city, where they identified the highly polluted Manchagara River as the city's most serious problem. But the solution was beyond the children's reach, so instead, they voted to clean up and reforest the slopes of the Pichincha Volcano to help prevent the landslides that regularly occur during the rainy season.
Silvia Delgado is a 15-year old from one of Quito's impoverished districts. She was part of a group of young people that decided to prevent seasonal mudslides. After the rainy season, we collected a lot of garbage, planted trees and painted murals about how the environment should be, she says. Silvia's group also drew up an ecological map of Quito.
In another project, the children identified severe lead pollution from gasoline and organised themselves into three groups - promoters, reporters and rangers - to work on the problem. The promoters, often older children, encourage an interest in environmental issues among younger children; the reporters write and publish a newspaper with letters and reports from around the country; and the rangers roam around the city jotting down the licence plates of vehicles emitting toxic fumes. They pass on the numbers to the national traffic department which has signed a special agreement with the children.
The children's activities have prompted wide support from local authorities and technical assistance from more than 40 community and environmental organisations. More than 50 local councils and the mayors of Quito, Guayaquil, Rioamba and several other cities have signed agreements committing them to implement environmental protection measures.
Until now, local people, who suffer the effects of environmental degradation, have been passive, leaving outside experts to diagnose and 'fix' their problems. This time we decided to let the children do it, says Soledad Moscosco, a sociologist and coordinator for the campaign. It seems to be the most effective approach because we're creating new citizens who can act democratically.