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close this bookVoices of Children and Adolescents (UNAIDS - Best Practice Digest, 2000, 3 p.)
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Voices of Children and Adolescents

Summarised from VOICES of children and adolescents in Latin America and the Caribbean. Regional survey. May 2000. UNICEF Regional office for Latin America and the Caribbean.

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In conducting this survey of the attitudes of children and adolescents, UNICEF was inspired by Article 12 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) which guarantees to all children and adolescents the right to freely express their opinions on issues that affect them. The survey was based on a sample of 11,852 respondents. It represents the opinions of 103 million Caribbean and Latin American children of both sexes between the ages of 9 and 18. It represents the first initiative of its kind at regional level. Its objective is to listen to children and adolescents throughout the region and to become aware of their feelings about the world in which they live.

Childhood represents a tremendous repository of societal wealth. From UNICEF’s point of view, investment in young children and adolescents should be recognised as the most effective mechanism for combating poverty in all societies.

The results of the study show that the majority of children and adolescents feel insecure in the places where they live. Although the family continues to be the principle source of happiness and well-being, it can be seen in many cases as a space with violent and aggressive behaviours. In spite of valuing the right to education and considering it fundamental for their development as individuals, many children and adolescents indicate that they do not feel they are respected and listened to in their schools.

More than half of those interviewed say they are not heard, either at home or at school.

Right to information

When asked how much they knew about sex education, AIDS and drug prevention, about one third of the respondents claim to have little or no information. This portion of respondents represents about 33 million children throughout the region.

Children living in Caribbean and Andean countries show higher levels of feeling uninformed. In all cases, the lower income earning segments, rural inhabitants, blacks, and indigenous peoples report higher levels of feeling uninformed.

This finding indicates a low level of implementation of Article 17 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child. This commits states to ensure that the child has access to information that “ promotes his or her social, spiritual and moral well-being and physical and mental health.” The fact that 36% of the children and adolescents interviewed state that they are little or not at all informed about AIDS weighs directly upon the increase in the transmission of HIV among these age groups. This same insight can be extended to the risks which these groups face with respect to drug abuse, given that only 53% of respondents felt well informed.

Respondents were asked what they knew about the prevention of HIV/AIDS. The practices which were spontaneously mentioned by children, included:

· Using a condom (62%), an answer given in higher proportions in Brazil and the Southern Cone

· Having a single partner (23%), mentioned more often in the Caribbean, Central America and the Andean Area

· It must be observed that 8% of the total sample indicated that “ not coming near an infected person” was a valid means for avoiding AIDS infection, with higher percentages found in Central America and the Andean countries.