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UNICEF Regional Director hears the concerns of a gathering of youth in Honduras

© UNICEF Honduras/2011/González
A young girl shares her concerns with UNICEF’s Regional Director in Latin America and Caribbean during an open discussion celebrated in Honduras’ capital, Tegucigalpa.

By Marcos González

TEGUCIGALPA, Honduras 25 July 2011- Adults must make more of an effort to listen to our children, UNICEF Regional Director for Latin America and the Caribbean, Bernt Aasen, told a gathering of fifty children and adolescents in Honduras in May.

The meeting was held in a community center in Comayagüela for the express purpose of highlighting the problems facing the lives of its young participants, as well as hearing their ideas on how to solve them. For nearly two hours, the Regional Director of UNICEF heard the young people’s comments and remarked on how similar their concerns were to those of other children he had visited recently in countries such as El Salvador and Nicaragua.

Quality of education

One of the most common claims presented in the discussion was the right to receive a quality education.

"There are problems of quantity and quality of education in this country,” one participant pointed out. “We received hardly any classes because teachers spend their time constantly on strike. And in many centers there are no desks, blackboards, even less libraries.”
Addressing the subject of education, Mr. Aasen asked the crowd why more than two-thirds of the adolescents in Honduras do not attend secondary school. “The high cost of living affects it,” a young girl responded. “Parents take their children out of school to make them work and earn money to live.”

Addressing security issues

Lack of security in the country was another major concern voiced by those participating in the discussion, as one young girl emphasized. She noted that many children in her neighborhood can’t go to school for fear of being robbed. "Women are more at risk and more vulnerable because we are harassed or abused,” she said.

© UNICEF Honduras/2011/González
UNICEF's Regional Director for Latin America and the Caribbean, Bernt Aasen, listen to young Hondurans’ aspirations and ideas during his visit to the country.

“We need more trained and ethical security personnel,” proposed another young man. “Let’s invest less in tear gas, and more in books!”
Speaking to this point, Mr. Aasen advocated organizing a talk with the security forces to find out their perspective.

Proper access to medication and potable water were other issues addressed in the meeting. A girl from the Children's Communicators Network lamented the high price of food and water.

"My mother earns 100 lempiras - USD$ 5.3 - a day, and she spends 60 on two gallons of water,” she said. “We have only 40, which have to feed my four brothers and me, to pay our transportation, medicines... It is impossible. "

UNICEF’s commitment

The Regional Director concluded the conversation by asserting his dedication to hearing their collective voice and acting upon their concerns.

“We are committed to open up a new forum between you and Government officials, in order to listen to your problems,” he said. “You can help this country, but for this to happen we must invest in children and youth to help you accomplish your dreams in life."



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