|© UNICEF Brazil/2009/Stoddart|
|Youth participation is a priority in the Urban Platform initiative. In 2009, English actress Cat Deeley visited young adolescents in São Paulo.|
By Julia Assef
NEW YORK, USA, 23 August 2011 – Brazil is a country populated by the outrageously wealthy and the devastatingly poor – there is little middle ground. With a total population of 193 million Brazilians, 60 million are under the age of 18, 38 per cent of whom live in poverty.
This inequity generates a profound impact on the lives of children and adolescents living in the country’s most populous communities, as they constantly face the violation of their fundamental rights. Currently, homicide is the cause of 45 per cent of the deaths among young Brazilians between 12 and 18 years old.
To help transform this grim reality, the Platform for Urban Centers was established in 94 communities in the Brazilian cities of São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro and Itaquaquecetuba. The UNICEF-supported initiative aims to reduce the disparities which affect children and their families. By the end of 2011, UNICEF will grant a certificate to local governments that reach at least 12 out of 20 goals for improving poverty-stricken communities.
Youth participation essential
Adolescents play a key role in strengthening and mobilizing their community. In the Platform, 200 young people participate in a process which deepens their knowledge of public policy and teaches them how to dialogue with the government, civil society and the media.
|© UNICEF Brazil/2009/Clareto|
|Children attend public school in São Paulo. Guarantee the right to quality education is one of the priorities of the Platform.|
"It’s a moment in which policy and decision makers are listening to us,” said Sabrina dos Santos, 18. “We get their attention."
Sabrina has been a young communicator in Rio de Janeiro since she was 15, and now dreams about becoming a doctor.
In order to encourage adolescents’ participation in decision-making areas and encourage them to perform social transformation, UNICEF and partners conduct training sessions on themes related to youth political participation. "I always say that I owe the Platform my knowledge about the rights and duties that I have in my community," said Sabrina.
In joint cooperation with governments, non-governmental organizations, companies and decision makers, communities work to ensure that children, adolescents and their families are able to access programs, projects and services of education, health, information, professionalization, sport, leisure, culture and protection.
|© UNICEF Brazil/2009/Stanley|
|Children and adolescents in the popular community Lousada, in Itaquaquecetuba.|
"It’s easy to complain that the governments don’t do anything,” said Juliana Rodrigues, 25, who works in the Fazenda da Juta community, in São Paulo. "The information we received with the trainings has changed people’s perspective of the future.”
Reversing the inequity
One of the actions of the Platform are the Communitarian Forums, in which meetings are held with people who live and work in the community in order to analyze the local situation, discuss problems and solutions and evaluate strategies to achieve the goals proposed in the Platform.
"We know that we still have major challenges that directly affect the lives of thousands of Brazilian adolescents," said UNICEF Programme Specialist for São Paulo, Silvio Kaloustian. "However, it’s important to highlight that the qualified participation of this population group in the improvement of public policies within their communities, is bringing very positive results for the society as a whole."
Reversing the inequity that exists in Brazil is a UNICEF priority and young people are essential to the process. As Sabrina Santos expressed: "We have hopes, ideas, proposals and determination to fight for our rights…we just need to have opportunities."
15 August 2011 – UNICEF correspondent Julia Assef speaks with Silvio Kaloustian, Sabrina dos Santos e Juliana Rodrigues about the Platform for Urban Centers initiative in Brazil, that seeks to ensure the right of children and adolescent that live in urban areas to survive and develop, have access to education, health, a safe environment and being public policy’s top priority. (audio in Portuguese)