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Safeguarding the Rights of Indigenous Children and Adolescents

7 June 2012 Punta Gorda, Toledo

Belize’s indigenous population – particularly its children and adolescents – face many challenges in their development as well as in realizing their basic rights to education, health, and protection. As part of the Government of Belize-UNICEF Programme of Cooperation and in collaboration with Tumul K’in, the National Garifuna Council, Congress of Maya Teachers, Maya Youth Coalition, Battle of the Drums Secretariat, and  Maya Leaders Alliance, a two day symposium focusing on indigenous children and adolescent rights will be held on 7-8 June 2012 in Punta Gorda Town. The symposium will have the participation of NGOs, CSOs and individuals working with children in Southern Belize.

The symposium entitled, ‘Safeguarding the Rights of Indigenous Children and Adolescents’ will commence with an opening ceremony by Mayor Antony Fuentes at 9:00 a.m. in Punta Gorda Town in the Toledo District. The Keynote Address will be presented by Dr. Peter Allen, Chief Executive Officer from the Ministry of Health. The main objectives of the Symposium are: to articulate and draft an agenda for indigenous children and adolescents as part of the National Plan of Action at national and local levels; to review the challenges faced by indigenous children and adolescents and their families; and finally to explore promising practices in programming for indigenous children and adolescents in Belize.

The first day will focus on the achievement of social well-being for Indigenous Children and Adolescents. This includes the articulation of their rights within the National Plan of Action for Children and Adolescents in the context of the Convention on the Rights of Children (CRC) focusing on equity and quality in health, nutrition across the life cycle; early childhood development; the right to identity; participation and the promotion of indigenous cultures. A map of all the current indigenous initiatives will be presented as well, that will underscore the gaps that exist in programmes and policies as it relates to indigenous children.

Models that highlight the successful approaches to education from indigenous educational institutions such as Julian Cho and Corazon High schools, Tumul k’in Learning Centre, Gulisi and Aguacate primary schools will be shared. A youth panel will further articulate what it means to be an indigenous adolescent through their eyes and share their experiences as well as hardships that they endure in order to fulfill their rights as young citizens. Their voices will stimulate discussion on the much needed agenda for the indigenous children and adolescents.  

On the second day, priorities for indigenous children and adolescents will be identified. Attorney Antoinette Moore will discuss the CRC in the context of indigenous rights with a view to frame indigenous children’s plan with its follow up actions to safeguard their rights.    

The two days of deliberation will promote expression of opinions, experiences, ideas, concerns and recommendations to ensure that indigenous children and adolescents are able to fully realize their rights. Partners participating in this symposium will continue to build awareness and understanding among authorities and civil society toward the challenges, bottlenecks and desires that indigenous communities face especially the children. Recognizing the challenges faced by indigenous peoples in safeguarding their rights requires ongoing dialogue to address the current situation of high poverty rate and lack of basic needs in the indigenous communities in Belize.  
For more information, please contact:
Christine Norton, UNICEF Representative
UNICEF Belize; Tel: 223-3864/3609;

Anna D. Hoare, Communication Officer
UNICEF Belize; Tel: 223-3864/3609;
UNICEF works in more than 155 countries and territories to help guarantee to children the rights to survive and develop from infancy to adolescence. UNICEF is the largest provider of vaccines in developing countries, works to improve health and nutrition from infancy, provide quality water supply and sanitation, basic quality education for all children, and protection of children against violence, exploitation, and HIV/AIDS. UNICEF is financed entirely by the voluntary contributions of individuals, businesses, foundations, and governments.

About Tumul k’in Centre of Learning
Tumul K'in is a non-governmental Maya organization officially inaugurated in 2002 as a Center of Learning that promotes sustainable development with identity. Their intercultural education program includes integration of indigenous arts, music, sports and culture into the curriculum with a specific emphasis on indigenous adolescent leadership and participation. Tumul Kin has been assuming a strong leadership role in intercultural education and has supported the capacity development of other education institutions interested in adopting intercultural education. Learn more at

Ester Sanchez  Sho, Managing Director 
Tumul K’in Tel: 501-634-9139;

National Garifuna Council  please contact:
The National Garifuna Council was established in 1981 as the official organization representing the needs and aspirations of the Garifuna people. NGC works along with the Government, Private Sector and Civil Society in identifying, planning and implementing development projects and programmes which affect the Garinagu in Belize.  They promote: interracial harmony among the various ethnic groups that are found in Belize; the Garifuna sub-culture, as part of the Belizean culture; preservation of culture through language, music, food, dances, crafts, arts and rituals; economic development of Garifuna communities in Belize to make them productive and self reliant; education and training opportunities for Garinagu, in fields which will serve the specific needs of a Garifuna community; develop programs which will bring out the diversity and the richness of Garifuna history, culture and art; and motivate their youth to take active part in the Council’s programmes and activities, for the development of leadership skills. The NGC has 10 branches located in the six districts of Belize.  Learn more at: http//
Robert Mariano, President of National Garifuna Council 
NGC: Tel; 601-8758;



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