Viva Review 2010
Viva + 41 churches + 132 local projects = children empowered It’s 11:30, and the children of Cochabamba are on the march. First they meet at the city’s stadium for prayer, then they head for the streets armed with banners, songs and a firm grasp of their rights. And Cochabamba can’t help but take notice - there are more than 2,000 of them.
This prayer march is the latest venture of our child-led advocacy programme, which has been rapidly gathering momentum throughout the year. It currently brings together 72 child ambassadors from our city-wide networks in Bolivia, and their job is to get the word out that children have rights and need to be respected, valued and kept safe. Bolivia is in the process of widespread development, and it’s encouraging to see the opening of new schools, health centres and feeding programmes. However, the long-standing issues of child neglect and abuse still linger on in Bolivian culture, and in many places it is still considered appropriate to beat a child. So a key part of protecting Bolivia’s children is educating Bolivia’s adults, and who better to do the teaching than the children themselves? Every year our city-wide networks provide the platform for these 72 child ambassadors to organise national
campaigns on keeping children safe, and this year’s was the biggest yet. The weeklong Good Treatment campaign saw 5,000 children setting up market stalls in six of the country’s largest cities, teaching adults how to protect children and ‘inoculating’ them (with a sweet!) against treating children badly. This generation are clearly good communicators, as their efforts resulted in more than 28,000 adults becoming ‘certified’ child protectors over the week. When they are not storming the streets these groups of child advocates regularly arrange their own radio interviews, television appearances, audiences with government ministers and local authorities, and church and classroom presentations to make as many people as possible aware of child rights. New advocates are elected every year, so that many different children have the chance to impact their cities. The Cochabamba prayer march has been a huge success. Local politicians, business owners and adult passers-by are witnessing children stand up for themselves in a way Bolivian culture has never seen, and with every stride more children are learning that they don’t have to live with abuse and neglect. So look out Bolivia – there’s no telling what transformation this confident and empowered generation might bring as it comes of age.