Santiago, the teenage leader from Pucallpa who is ready to give gender-based violence the red card

In mid-2021, he made an important decision: to organise himself with other teenagers to represent girls and boys his age in his region, Ucayali, in the middle of Peru's Amazon rainforest

By: Ricardo Monzón
Un adolescente en un balcón, frente a arbustos y una casa
UNICEF Perú/Monzón R.
29 November 2022

Santiago's life has been quite busy last year. Not only because of his school and sporting interests or his social life, which is in full swing at his recent age of 16. It has been so because in the middle of 2021 he made an important decision: to organise himself with other teenagers to represent girls and boys his age, and to fight the main problems of his region, Ucayali, in the middle of Peru’s Amazon rainforest.

As a student leader and president of the network of adolescents, Secondary Education as a Life Experience (SEV), he seeks to ensure that the voices of his classmates in the educational institutions that he brings together, I.E. El Trébol, I.E. Agropecuario, I.E. José Olaya and I.E. El Arenal, are heard by the authorities. He decided to get involved in student leadership in order to improve his school, to make classes more dynamic, classmates more participative and to manage productive activities.

Pucallpa Ucayali

"The main objective we had in organising ourselves was to make the authorities listen to our voices and, in this way, contribute to solving the problems that afflict us in Ucayali, namely violence against women, adolescents and children, teenage pregnancy and environmental pollution".
- Santiago, 16 years old

In the Regional Hospital of Pucallpa alone, a total of 205 pregnancies of girls and adolescents were registered in the first half of 2021, including two pregnant 11-year-old girls, which also represents violence. Likewise, 1,800 cases of violence against women were registered from January to October in Ucayali, according to figures from the Ministry of Women and Vulnerable Populations.

Through the SEV adolescent network, Santiago has promoted different projects of the Ministry of Education, such as " Give violence the red card", where a message of non-violence towards women was conveyed through playful activities; and "Ideas in action", in which pregnant girls told how this situation affected them; as well as his own proposals such as "Super Star Talent", during which adolescents demonstrated their talent; and "Sale of recycled paper and bottles", to raise awareness about pollution.

Un adolescente habla frente a un salón lleno de escolares
UNICEF Perú/Flores D.
Tres adolescentes sentados saludando a la cámara
UNICEF Perú/Monzón R.

"All these activities have been planned and organised thanks to the support of our partners, such as the Provincial Municipality of Coronel Portillo, UNICEF, the Government of Canada and Zonta International.  We have participated in coaching activities and workshops promoted by them and, as a result, we have increased our leadership capacities", assures Santiago.

His short experience as a student leader has led Santiago to recognise that the main virtue of an adolescent is to be empathetic and supportive of other adolescents and their needs. In a short time he has managed to build his life project, linking personal and community interests, but he still has many goals to achieve and has identified a new issue.

"I would like to become a geriatrician to take care of all the villages in Ucayali where I see that the elderly are abandoned. This is a new issue that I have noted and that I would like to help reduce. I am going to prepare myself for that", he concludes with the certainty of knowing that he is on the right track.