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At a glance: Guatemala

A platform for young voices in the run-up to the Guatemalan elections

UNICEF Image: Guatemala, Prensa Libre survey
© UNICEF Guatemala/2007/ Chews
Young people in Guatemala, even those who cannot vote, are concerned with what they see as a lack of prospects for their future.

By Blue Chevigny

GUATEMALA CITY, Guatemala, 25 July 2007 –  In September, Guatemala will hold their national elections and the citizens are abuzz with their opinions on the various candidates. Now, one group of Guatemalans that isn’t often recognized at election time – 13 to 17 year olds – are making their opinions heard as well.

UNICEF Guatemala, in partnership with the Prensa Libre newspaper, conducted a survey of young people just below voting age. Prensa Libre devoted the first four pages of their Sunday edition to the survey results, and the public’s strong interest in the responses was clear.  People are listening to what people who will be voting in four years have to say right now.

Youths looking for solutions

According to UNICEF Country Representative Manuel Manrique, the survey showed that many young people in Guatemala are concerned about the lack of adequate educational and economic opportunities within the country.

“66 per cent of them would like to leave the country and seek opportunities in other countries,” Mr. Manrique told UNICEF Radio. “In their imaginations, going abroad is a way of getting a better life.

© UNICEF Guatemala/2007/ Chews
Guatemalan youth have many valid concerns and it is essential that those be taken into account by politicians.

“An indigenous boy or girl in Guatemala is very unlikely to finish high school,” he continued, “I think this is one of the explanations why they see going out of the country as a solution.”

Teenagers are also highly concerned with gang violence. “Guatemala is suffering the consequences of gangs that appeared a few years ago called Maras,” Mr. Manrique says. “They extort just about anyone. They extort children in schools, asking them for a certain amount of money for their security.”

In Guatemala and the world beyond

The overall purpose of the survey was to raise consciousness about the country’s issues – within Guatemala and in the world beyond.  Some of the problems that are pervasive in the small country may not be well understood around the globe.

The survey results will be used to galvanize political candidates into taking the concerns of youth − particularly indigenous youth who are often unrecognized − into account during the elections. 

“We have prepared a document, which I will deliver personally to every candidate, where we suggest a number of things that need to be done,” explained Mr. Manrique.

Between now and September, candidates in Guatemala will have a chance to reflect on what matters most to this next generation of voters. Thanks to Prensa Libre and other partners, the results are in.




24 July 2007:
UNICEF Radio Correspondent Blue Chevigny reports on a media-conducted youth survey in Guatemala.
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