The children

Childhood in the Dominican Republic

The Early Years

Boys and Girls of School-Going Age




© UNICEF/DR/2005

Being an adolescent in the Dominican Republic.
UNICEF’s concern for the issue of adolescents is relatively recent. It has taken place since the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the backbone of UNICEF’s institutional mandate, which describes a boy or girl as each human being younger than 18 thus extending UNICEF’s responsibility up to this age.

As a consequence of the above, UNICEF is committed to focusing its efforts on three essential stages of childhood development. From 0 to 6 years: a good start in life; from 6 to 12 years: the opportunity to complete a good quality basic education; and from 12 to 18 years: the capacity to develop individual potential in adequate and safe environments so as to contribute and participate in the family, the school, the community and society.

For UNICEF, adolescence is a socially created concept which has cultural connotations and therefore does not constitute a homogeneous group. One should take into account that this development period of the human being comprises of several stages and each has different demands and needs in terms of one’s body, sexuality, emotions, analytical and thinking capabilities, social development and participation in processes related to overall development.

Adolescence in figures
According to the Population Census of 2002, the population between the ages of ten and eighteen amounted to 1,638,081, representing 19.1% of the total population. Of that total, 825,693 were male and 812,388 were females.
(Source: National Census of Population and Family; Statistics National Office, DO, 2002)

Poverty greatly affects this age group according to ECLAC estimates, of the 13 to 18 years range alone 49.1% are poor.

For the school year 2004-2005, gross enrolment in secondary education was 61% while net enrolment was 36%, with a problem of over age which affected almost 50% of those enrolled. For the school year 2002-2003, repetition reached 7.0% and dropouts 9.4% for the same population.

(Source: Santo Domingo: Secretariat of State of Education/Statistics Department, 2005).

Apart from access to the formal education system, the adolescent population has limited access to technical/vocational education through institutes and schools, because enrolment costs are not affordable for many families.

© UNICEF/RD/2006/Cappelletti

At present the Secretariat of State of Health and Social Assistance (SESPAS by its initials in Spanish) has some 30 integrated health units for adolescents installed in the main public hospitals of the country. However, the vision of adolescent health does not include a wide prevention perspective and available statistics are mainly related to the incidence of teenage pregnancy and the risks of sexually transmitted diseases (STD) and HIV/AIDS.

Concerning HIV and STD prevention, recent data revealed that male adolescents protect themselves more than female adolescents. While 46.9% of males stated using condoms with any female partner, only 10.6% of females stated using them. This reveals the limited capacity and power of females adolescents as regards decision making concerning their rights to receive sexual and reproductive health information and services.

Among the population of 15 to 19 year olds there is less knowledge of the symptom of STDs  than among the adults surveyed. Among the group of adolescents that did not know the symptoms of STDs, the figures were 43.9% and 39.8% for women and men respectively. (Source: Demographic and Health Survey (ENDESA)/Santo Domingo: Social and Demographic Study Centre (CESDEM by its initials in Spanish), 2002)

Risk Situations
Culturally speaking child labour is considered by many parents to be important in order to “teach them a job”, or as an economic contribution to the home. Thus, 58% of adolescents in the country between the ages of 10 and 17 work, which affects their development since they have less time to study, play and rest.
(Source: Child Labour National Survey/Santo Domingo, DO:ILO/IPEC; Secretariat of State of Labour, 2002).

A study carried out in two cities of the country, Santo Domingo and Puerto Plata, reveals some indicators that are of grave concern about minors who are exploited sexually for commercial purposes; the average age is 15 in the case of males and 16 in the case of females. Forty percent of the 118 interviewed in the study had run away from home at least once alleging family problems and conflicts. In the case of female adolescents, 26.2% of them lived ate home with a partner, eight percent had suffered from a Sexual Transmitted Disease (STDs) at some time; and 66% had been pregnant.

(Source: Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Minors in the Dominican Republic/Santo Domingo, DO: ILO/IPEC; PROFAMILIA, 2002).

Concerning birth registration, according to the ENDESA Survey, in 2002, 6.1% of 10-14 years olds had not been registered thus denying them the right to a name and nationality, and consequently the right to education, which limits their technical or professional formation, to have better job opportunities and exercise their rights as citizens.

There are signs in the country to indicate that actions have been developing to meet the many needs of this population and others that are providing opportunities for adolescents to demonstrate their great creative abilities to provide solutions for their own development problems.

In nine municipalities of the country Children and Youth Councils have been created in which adolescents show their capacities to participate in municipal development management. Also noteworthy are the children’s clubs (formed by boys, girls, and adolescents) created by Radio Marien in Dajabon and youth networks that work to prevent HIV/AIDS, among other areas where adolescents participate.






Youth Participation

As a way of fostering adolescents’ participation and to bring out the problems that affect them, during the 2002-2006 Country Programme, the following initiatives were promoted:

• Youth city halls (to strengthen leadership capacity and turn them into agents of change, responsible for promoting projects in favour of their communities and in particular children and adolescents).
• School governments (created in Multigrade Innovative Schools),
• Radio programmes
• Socio-cultural animation groups
• Adolescents’ networks for the prevention of HIV/AIDS

Voices of Youth

Voices of Youth has been working since 1995. It started as a platform for more than 3,000 young people from 81 countries to send their messages to world leaders during the World Summit for Social Development held in Copenhagen during the spring of 1995. It was also conceived as part of the celebration of UNICEF’s fiftieth anniversary (UNICEF started its operations on December 11, 1946).

From its inception, Voices of Youth devoted itself to ensuring that youth from all countries could learn more, give more opinions and do more in the world they live in.


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