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In Brazil, the Platform for Urban Centres empowers youth to advocate for children’s rights

© UNICEF Brazil/2012/Diniz
In São Paulo, Brazil, adolescents work together to reduce inequalities and promote children's rights.

UNICEF’s flagship report, ‘The State of the World’s Children 2012: Children in an Urban World’, was launched on 28 February, focusing attention on children in urban areas. One billion children live in urban areas, a number that is growing rapidly. Yet disparities within cities reveal that many lack access to schools, health care and sanitation, despite living alongside these services. This story is part of a series highlighting the needs of these children. 

SAO PAULO, Brazil, 9 March 2012 – Alisson Rodrigues Cordeiro, 18, is determined to improve living conditions and reduce inequalities in his community in the Itaim Paulista district of São Paulo.

From age 16, Alisson has been a youth ambassador in the ‘Platform for Urban Centres’ initiative, which works with the Government, NGOs and community leaders to ensure the rights of children and adolescents living on the outskirts of Brazilian cities.

The initiative increases access to education, health care and job training services for children living in these communities, and promotes municipal, state and national policies that empower communities to defend children’s rights.

Alisson’s community is one of the 80 in Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro taking part in the Platform, which is being coordinated by UNICEF in Brazil.

Youth leaders

As a youth ambassador, Alisson has learned to be an effective and articulate advocate, and to mobilize other children as advocates as well. Guided by educators from the organization Viração, he and other youth leaders have conducted classroom workshops covering issues such as racism.

Alisson has also been able to voice the needs and concerns of young people at the a youth conference in São Paulo, and he is working with programmes to improve his community’s access to public services and the justice system.

To do all this, he had to overcome resistance from his family, who did not want him to participate in the initiative.

"I had to make a big effort to acquire knowledge and break the taboo that adolescents don’t do anything for the community," said Alisson.

© UNICEF/2012/Brazil/Diniz
Alisson Rodrigues Cordeiro, 18, is a youth leader advocating for the rights of children and adolescents in São Paulo, Brazil.

"What gives you strength is that we all want the same goals, and together we can join hands [in support of] the same welfare – the welfare of our community," he said.

Making a difference

The Platform has so far helped municipalities improve education quality, and it has helped prepare adolescents for professional careers. It has increased the number of guardianship councils, and has trained professionals and community leaders in the needs of young children.

Approximately 200 adolescents like Alisson have participated in communication programmes teaching them to effectively express their concerns and propose solutions. Adults and adolescents have also met in over 60 forums to examine progress and plan further action.

In 2011, Alisson helped carried out the Survey on Children and Adolescents, which will help the community better understand what progress has been made in guaranteeing children’s right to education. The survey will also reveal what challenges require further attention.

Alisson’s work is not just having an effect on his community; it is having an effect on him. Before joining the Platform, he had his own doubts about the effectiveness of community participation and child-rights advocacy. Today, he knows he can help effect positive change – not only in his community, but in the city and the country as a whole.

"I know I can make a difference," he said.



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