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At a glance: Peru

In Peru, presidential hopefuls commit to ‘Vote for Children’

© La Republica daily
Gustavo Romero Velarde, 17 (second from left), with other young people who hope to convince voters and presidential candidates in Peru to make children’s rights a priority.
By Elsa Úrsula

LIMA, Peru, 26 April 2006 – Gustavo Romero Velarde, 17, saw the presidential election held in Peru earlier this month as an opportunity to make a difference for young people in his country. During a highly publicized encounter before the 9 April election, Gustavo and 20 of his peers met with the six top presidential candidates to put children’s rights firmly at the top of the agenda for both politicians and voters.

The Vota por La Niñez (‘Vote for Children’) initiative organized the candidates’ forum with the aim of motivating the electorate to vote for the candidate with the most child-friendly platform. The media covered the meeting, and voters watched as candidates signed a commitment to uphold the rights of Peru’s children.

Children set objectives

“We discussed and wrote down what we believe are the rights most disregarded by the government, family and society as a whole,” said Gustavo, citing several areas the group feels children are lacking, such as protection from abuse, access to quality education, labour rights and adequate nutrition.

“I was very excited knowing that each of my words represented the voice of thousands of children and youth like me, struggling to build a better country,” he continued.

Despite their enthusiasm, the young activists had no idea what the candidates’ actual reaction would be. “One of them said, ‘What? Is this all you are asking for?’” Gustavo recalled. “In fact, if these basic objectives could be attained we would be very satisfied. We could later move forward to accomplish much more.”

© UNICEF Peru/2006/Úrsula
A representative of the APRA party joins a group of Peruvian youngsters during the Vote for Children campaign, which has been promoting children’s rights during the presidential elections in Peru.

Public support is integral

Vote for Children gained notoriety among Peruvians who watched the children speaking with presidential hopefuls on the TV news. “I think they were surprised to see boys, girls and teenagers talking with them, expressing our problems and demanding specific solutions,” said Gustavo.

At a local bus stop, people who recognized Gustavo rushed to shake hands with him. One woman cheerfully approached him, saying, “You are the Vote for Children kid! I will vote for you all. That’s the only way our country will improve.” 

Public support was integral in popularizing the campaign and its ideals. “I felt that we had reached the citizens’ conscience,” said Gustavo. “The entire country has acknowledged that they have promised to carry out what we asked for. Indeed, the time has come not only for us but for all citizens to ensure that they keep their promise.”

On election day, no candidate received the necessary 50 per cent of votes to be declared president. A second round of voting will be held in the coming weeks.



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