Protective Communities Project trained young people on the Ecuador-Colombia border in life skills

UNICEF promotes the participation of children and adolescents, and the protection of their rights in border communities between Ecuador and Colombia.

Ana María Castro
Comunidades Protectoras capacitó a los jóvenes de la frontera norte
UNICEF/ECU/2021/Kingman
03 March 2021

Estrella Cheme (19) wakes up early in her home, located in the community of Bella Aurora in the province of Esmeraldas, Ecuador. Today isn’t just any day. She has an appointment to be interviewed on Borbón radio for her first ever radio interview. After breakfast, she says goodbye to her mother Eriberta, who gives her a hug and wishes her lots of success.

She takes a few steps and gets into a canoe, her means of transport for traveling down the Cayapas River to Borbón, 10 minutes from her home. Her face doesn’t hide the excitement of being heard on the radio by all the inhabitants of her community.

In the interview, Estrella talks about her experience in the Protective Communities Project involving adolescents and young people of the Épera indigenous nationality. The young woman is straightforward in her interview, enthusiastic, and tells about how her participation in training workshops has strengthened her self-confidence and communication skills.

Estrella became a mother at an early age and raising her baby has demanded time and dedication. Now she is happy participating again in activities with other young people, feeling part of a project and preparing for working life.

Comunidades Protectoras capacitó a los jóvenes de la frontera norte
UNICEF/ECU/2021/Kingman
UNICEF Ecuador

As the interview unfolds, Eriberta listens to her daughter on the old radio she has in the kitchen. "It fills me with pride to hear Estrella on the radio. I want her to get ahead, get ready for life and learn to be a responsible woman," mom says.

After the interview, Estrella comments on how good she felt. "I was able to apply everything I've learned in the communication workshops. A lot has changed in me because I didn't know how to express myself before. I used to be more nervous, now I've lost the nervousness. With my colleagues I am always encouraging them and telling them we can’t miss the activities because they help us in life," says the 19-year-old.

As part of the binational Protective Communities Project and through the partner organization Lab XXI, UNICEF Ecuador carried out 16 workshops that focused on developing life skills such as empathy, leadership, communication, creativity, teamwork and energy management.

Comunidades Protectoras capacitó a los jóvenes de la frontera norte
UNICEF/ECU/2021/Kingman

Having successfully completed the radio interview, Estrella gets back into the canoe, this time to go to the Santa Rosa de los Épera community, half an hour from Borbón, where Lab XXI activities take place with teenagers and young people.

The workshops are led by young people from the same community, in this case Elia Mejía (25) and Fernando Palacios (24) are the facilitators. They received training from Lab XXI on different methodologies so that they could later carry them out in their territory.

"As a facilitator I am helping young people. We've been trained to help youth develop their creativity and move forward. We want them to not get stuck there, but to get out, to take a step forward in life," says Fernando.

In the activity, young people must test their creativity. The challenge is to work as a group to create traditional clothing in accord with different musical genres. Participants receive some different materials to work with, and as the activity develops, have to perform fun and challenging activities such as working with their eyes closed, using only the right hand or just one foot. The goal is not only to develop creativity, but also to generate empathy and put themselves in the shoes of people who have to live with some disability.

These trainings are based on a methodology of learning through experience, addressing issues related to the protection of the rights of children and adolescents, such as sexual and reproductive health, protection on the internet and social networks, as well as methods for proposing development and social change projects in their communities.

"During two years, in the territories of the Carchi and Esmeraldas provinces, Protective Communities has worked to promote changes in children’s and adolescent’s participation, ensuring the protection of their rights and guarding against the risks to which they are exposed," says Lilian Basantes, coordinator of the Protective Communities project at UNICEF Ecuador.

Jóvenes aprenden sobre habilidades para la vida y prevención de violencia
UNICEF/ECU/2021/Kingman

The binational Protective Communities Project, supported by the United Nations Peacebuilding Fund, was implemented between 2019 and 2020, in the border parishes of El Chical and Maldonado in the province of Carchi, and in the cantons of San Lorenzo and Eloy Alfaro, in the province of Esmeraldas, benefiting a total of 3,241 children and adolescents.