At 43, she has an ID card for the first time thanks to "Vamos"

What it means to finally have an identity, to be reflected in an official document and to be able to exist legally.

By Nadia Villalba, Public Advocacy Expert, UNICEF Paraguay
Foto Martina Chilavert
UNICEF/Paraguay/2021/Brizuela
21 December 2021

Martina Chilavert is 43 years old and she now has an identity card for the first time thanks to the “Vamos” Social Protection System of the National Government, with support of the European Union, the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) and the International Labour Organization (ILO).

Mother of 7 children and grandmother of 3, a farmer and producer of lemon verbena, peanuts and corn, Martina welcomed us in her home located in the La Preferida settlement of Santa Rosa del Aguaray, department of San Pedro, 260 km from the capital of Paraguay. In the full Guaraní language, with silences and glances, she told us what it meant to have an identity at last, to see her photo on an official document and to have legal existence.

"I am happy to have an ID card because it is too difficult to live without documents," said Martina. She explained that, as a child, she could not process her 'cédula' because she had lost her birth certificate and her mother did not know how to get one again. Her grandparents passed away, then her parents, and she could not find a way to get her documentation. Time went by without knowing where or how to solve her lack of identity, nor understanding the relevance of this human right.

On a motorbike along a long dirt road, Modesta Arévalos, UNICEF consultant supporting the Technical Unit of the Social Cabinet, resolutely arrived at Martina's home. To either side she sees silent countryside and houses far from each other in the distance. Her job is to link the Government’s Social Protection Program with the support of international cooperation, and to support the participants of the initiative who, like Martina, live in vulnerable situations.

"Ña Modesta completed the process and I got my ID card. It's a relief and I am glad to have my document," said Martina, proudly showing her identity card, also expressing regret that her children had to be registered in the Civil Registry with their father's surname.

Achieving assurance of rights without distinction

Modesta added that this work is a huge challenge, but she is proud of the achievements.

“As a Paraguayan woman and mother, I am proud to be part of this process. The program seeks to ensure rights throughout the life cycle from pregnancy to old age in each of the selected territories,” she indicated. In the first phase of the implementation, the program focuses on the towns of Villeta (Central), San Juan Nepomuceno (Caazapá), Santa Rosa del Aguaray (San Pedro) and Mariscal Estigarribia (Boquerón).

Social Protection Committees

The “Vamos” Social Protection System encompasses all the State social and protection services for their implementation through a single system. The public policy involves 25 institutions that are part of the Social Cabinet of the Presidency of the Republic, which approved a package of 46 prioritized strategic actions in its first phase.

The Social Protection Committees are made up of the institutions that are part of the national programs associated with the Social Protection System, and have been set up and identify the aspects that need to be strengthened.

Young people united for a mission

In addition to promoting Social Protection Committees where institutions such as the National Police, the Department of Identifications, the Ministries of Health and Education, among others, meet regularly to set priorities and coordinate actions in the municipalities, the project promotes community involvement for all society to understand the importance of the contribution of the different sectors, within and outside the government, to social protection.

Modesta Arévalos supports a youth group of Santa Rosa del Aguaray that is participating in dialogue spaces and training workshops to collaborate and improve the city.

Ida Heredia is one of the participants of the group “United for a Mission”. She explained that, despite the apathy, the Covid-19 pandemic and the lack of opportunities, many young people want to contribute positively to their city. Regarding Martina's case, she expressed: "The identity card is important because it is who I am, it shows that I live in this country and that I can demand my rights."

Martina's case is a clear example that the system must protect and eliminate the voids on a case-by-case basis, trying to resolve and ensure the rights of all, without distinction, according to the vision of this program which, through key actors, generates plans to close the existing gaps in the country.

Through the project "Social Protection & Improvement of Public Finances", UNICEF provides technical assistance to policymaking for social protection in Paraguay, for children and their families to be able to address their economic and social vulnerability during their entire life.

“It is very good to have an ID because it is too difficult to live without documents”

Martina Chilavert
UNICEF