In 2020, march for children’s rights in Bolivia !

Living together in school without violence

Bolivia is one of the poorest countries in Latin America. However, much progress has been made in recent years : the economy has grown annually and the GDP has increased from 9 to 40 billions dollars between 2006 and 2018. A unique free health system and an allowance for the over 60s have also been introduced. 

Nevertheless, disparities and inequalities remain significant, especially between urban and rural areas. Although the unemployment rate is 4,5%, the informal economy is predominant and accounts for a large majority of jobs. The poverty rate is high : between 2006 and 2018, it rose from 61% to 36%. Over the last decade there has been an improvement, but 16% of the population is still affected by extreme poverty.

Infant mortality and child labour are still high in Bolivia today. 26% of children aged 5 to 17 work at least one hour a day to support and participate in the economic needs of their families.

Regarding education, the situation has improved : a scholarship for children attending school was introduced in 2006 to enable families to pay for school materials as well as transportation fees. This measure has reduced school absenteeism and increased the overall enrolment rate. Furthermore, the fight against illiteracy has proved to be efficient because in 2001, 13% of Bolivia’s population did not know how to read, compared with 2% in 2016.

With the COVID-19 pandemic, many children have stopped going to school, and are at risk of not returning to school and being forced to work. The quality of life of children is deteriorating and the work of Terre des Hommes Suisse’s partners in Bolivia has changed. Monitoring and psychosocial care for children are now done online and a special prevention campaign against violence during confinement – with videos created by the children themselves – has been created and set up. Regular contact with the children and their families is maintained in order to prevent school dropout and violence.  

In the region of Cochabamba, Terre des Hommes Suisse is working to protect children from all forms of violence

In this context of strong social and economic disparities, many children are victims of physical, psychological and sexual violence. A macho and “adult-centered” model is still dominant and many adults and parents consider corporal punishment as an integral part of education. Violence can also occur within educational institutions.  

The Ayni Foundation works to enable children and adolescents to grow and develop in a healthy and protective environment. It works closely with children and families, but also with teachers to build new forms of relationships that enable children and adolescents to live together according to values such as respect, freedom, equality, solidarity and the participation of children and adolescents within the family and at school.

Terre des Hommes Suisse acts for children’s rights and supports Ayni in 3 areas :

1. Preventing violence at school and within families
Ayni promotes children’s rights as well as their protection in collaboration with teachers by producing educational guides for the implementation of the school curriculum in a playful way while using protection as a cross-cutting theme. Ayni also trains teachers in pedagogical methods that enable them to address topics such as how to live together, solidarity, protection and prevention through various learning areas.  

2. Making children actors in the fight against violence
At the request of children, Ayni has set up self-protection groups in the 11 schools it works with. These groups are accessible to children and adolescents who wish to do so and aim to train them on how to protect themselves and their peers in their immediate environment. During sessions held once a week, children and young people are trained on their rights, learn to identify different forms of violence, and organise activities to raise awareness among other children about violence and bullying in schools. This year, they have produced radio prevention spots and a play.

3. Support and train child welfare actors
Ayni trains public services’ officials working in child welfare to raise awareness and enable them to implement existing laws on the issue directly in their professional practice. It helps them to define procedures, as well as intervention and monitoring  models to ensure appropriate and quality care for children victims of violence.