SAN SALVADOR, 6 November 2006 - UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador Shakira Mebarak joined the “Make the Difference by Not Being Indifferent" campaign, in support of the fight against violence in El Salvador. Her participation came as the children’s agency and partners began preparations for the regional launch of the UN Secretary-General's Study on Violence Against Children and Adolescent.
Presently, El Salvador is undergoing a social crisis where ethical and moral values are increasingly ignored and forgotten. Violence indicators cited in the UN study rank El Salvador among the countries with the highest index of social violence in the world.
The international pop star met Sunday with more than 8000 children and adolescents who participated in the March for Peace in El Salvador, an event which was culminated with a ceremony of solidarity in the Sports Palace to launch UNICEF’s campaign.
Shakira, who was appointed Goodwill Ambassador in 2003, stressed the role of education for guaranteeing peace. “The schools play an important role when it comes down to protecting children against violence,” she said. “Violence is one of the principal reasons why children don't go to school. It's also one of the causes of the alarming school dropout rates.”
"We know that many boys and girls leave school because of poverty, because they have to work,” Shakira said. “However, there are an important number of children who abandon their studies because of the abuses they're subject to by teachers and their own parents.”
During the celebration, 6000 students and 2300 Scouts were accompanied by Government, UN and civil society representatives representatives, who were entertained with music groups and dance schools comprised of young artists.
The March for Peace in El Salvador represents the start of a series of activities geared at promoting peaceful and harmonious coexistence among children, adolescents and adults.
The Representative of UNICEF in El Salvador, Miriam de Figueroa said, "the campaign for peace seeks to eliminate violence in homes, schools and communities but also to counteract the likely emergence of violence by promoting social investment in community-based initiatives which seek to develop the skills and assets of young people so that they can develop their full potential to become contributing citizens."
During the opening of the campaign's launch, the celebrity made a call to all the people of El Salvador to put an end to the violence affecting children. “We have to promote human solidarity, avoid indifference, and play a part with society in the solution of the problem of violence faced by El Salvador,” she said.
Most forms of violence against children and adolescents are invisible, either because they occur within the private space of the family, are linked to illegal activities, or because of deficiencies in the statistics recording systems.
Nils Kastberg, Regional Director for Latin America and the Caribbean said “crime and violence have emerged as central issues in the political debates, where adolescents are frequently held responsible for the climate of insecurity evident in the countries. The issue of violence tends to be addressed from a perspective of 'citizen security' through the imposition of punitive measures instead of taking a preventive approach based on rights.”
He further added, “We believe it is necessary to intensify our efforts to promote prevention strategies, institutional mechanisms of protection and information about the impact of violence in the lives of children and adolescents.”
Shakira was accompanied to the event by the Vice President of El Salvador, Ana Vilma de Escobar, UNICEF's Regional Director for Latin America and the Caribbean, Nils Kastberg and the Representative of Unicef in El Salvador, Miriam de Figueroa, and received a big welcome from students and special guests.
The conclusions of the UN Secretary General's Study on Violence against Children and Adolescents indicate that violence and crime are closely linked to inequality, social exclusion and the lack of opportunities.
UNICEF El Salvador considered it important to promote a national crusade for peace and coexistence in the country. The slogan “Make the Difference by Not Being Indifferent” seeks to leverage human solidarity through avoiding being indifferent to violence.
About UNICEF For 60 years UNICEF has been the world’s leader for children, working on the ground in 156 countries and territories to help children survive and thrive, from early childhood through adolescence. The world’s largest provider of vaccines for developing countries, UNICEF supports child health and nutrition, good water and sanitation, quality basic education for all boys and girls, and the protection of children from violence, exploitation, and AIDS. UNICEF is funded entirely by the voluntary contributions of individuals, businesses, foundations and governments.