Students exchange toy weapons for sporting equipment and notebooks
Costa Rica joins efforts in the Global Week of Action against Gun Violence
San José, Costa Rica. Thursday June 05, 2008 – 200 children from the Luis Demetrio School located in the socially vulnerable settlement of los Cuadros of Goicoechea, traded their toy weapons for footballs, volleyballs, Frisbees, hula hoops and notebooks this Thursday afternoon as part of the Global Week of Action against Gun Violence.
The activity was organized by the Ministry of Justice, the Vice Ministry of the President, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).
Mayra Quesada, the school’s director, stated that violence in los Cuadros hampers educational achievement in the community’s children and that this activity represents a step in the right direction in preventing that children become victims of gun violence.
The Vice Minister of Justice, Mayela Coto, commented, “The joint efforts carried out between the community, grass roots organizations, the school and the government convert into strategic partnerships in preventing gun related violence and violence of all forms. The communities in which have successfully achieved this unification, today have positive results, focusing on the recuperation and formation of children and youth.” The Ministry of Justice leads the government’s actions in violence prevention.
The representatives of the participating organizations shared with the children assisting the activity about the dangers that guns pose.
The students also watched a warning about the dangers that guns pose and the importance of conflict resolution through open dialogue. The video also focuses teaching children to report finding a gun to police officers, teachers or parents, before touching or playing with it.
José Manuel Hermida, Resident Coordinator of the UNDP in Costa Rica emphasized that gun violence prevention must include early sensitization for children and insisted that one of the clearest risk factors associated with the increase of citizen insecurity is the amount of firearms in the country, which has increased over the last few years.
“Violence breeds more violence and it is not fair that children pay the consequences. Children have the right to study and play, while the rest of us must guarantee their rights and provide the necessary opportunities for their full development.” explained Seija Toro, representative of UNICEF in Costa Rica.
This activity also forms part of a Government Project with the United Nations, Guns? No thanks!, which targets gun related violence. This project has been carried in out in various schools throughout the county’s most violent areas.
José Torres, Vice Ministry of the Presidency indicated that the Government of Costa Rica is working in preventative actions targeting lowering violence and criminality that country is facing. To do so, the Vice Minister expressed “we are promoting a culture of peace through project, Guns? No Thanks! with our children.”
To help deal with the recent increase of violence in Costa Rica, the government created the National Consulting Committee which through its diagnostic has detected critical areas where firearm concentration is a serious concern, such as is the case in the counties of San José, Limón and Garabito.
This Committee has also proposed to initiate specific actions such as a legal reform for the Law on Firearms and Explosives, seeking to provide the country with better control in obtaining firearms and munitions. This would greatly help improve the situation.
The exchange of toy weapons for healthy toys and notebooks is an initiative that has already been carried out in various schools in Limón and San José. With the activities this Thursday, Costa Rica joins the Global celebration against gun violence which, according to the Vice Minister of Justice, “reaffirms the country’s commitment in achieving a more just, balanced and peaceful society.”
What the children say
During the activity, children also spoke out about gun violence.
“No violence, it’s bad. I want to be happy.”- Josuehaun, 10 years old.
“Violence is bad and it is ruining the world. Too many people die and get hurt.”- Alvaro, 9 years old.
“I am going to throw my toy guns into the box so that they can get rid of them because violence hurts people and I don’t want that. We have a better life without guns”- Pamela, 8 years old.
“Guns are bad for children we shouldn’t touch them and if we ever find one, we have to tell the police or our teacher.”- Giharina, 9 years old.
For further information
Michael Martin, firstname.lastname@example.org, UNICEF Costa Rica