“If you invest in children, especially girls, you will have a more progressive and safe society”, Carlos Carrera, from UNICEF

The representative of the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) in Guatemala recommends that the deputies approve the National Comprehensive Protection System, which has been under discussion for several years.

The commemoration of International Women’s Day and the tragedy at the Virgen de la Asunción Safe Home are dates that influence changes in favor of children from health and education programs, recommends Unicef.

What did the government authorities learn and what were the changes due to the tragedy in Virgen de la Asunción?

–It was a horrible event, which is why UNICEF has been advocating the institutionalization of children for decades, since it is not the best solution. It has been reiterated that there should be outpatient programs, where it is mentioned that children should not live in these places, but receive assistance every day through psychosocial recovery programs. In cases where the parents have died or are unable to support them, it is recommended that they be placed in extended or substitute families. Since the tragedy, there has been a decrease in the number of boys and girls in government institutions, before there were 5,000 and now about 3,500 are mentioned; Although it is an initial phase, more coverage is required with adequate personnel that fulfills its preventive role.

What kinds of programs should be included?

-We believe that one of the appropriate strategies is to approve the bill that contemplates the creation of the National System of Comprehensive Protection for girls and adolescents. With this law, care for this group of the population would be facilitated. As protection services for vulnerable families, also social protection and economic support. The issue of the deprivation of liberty of adolescents in conflict with the law is also addressed, where education programs should be promoted so that they have a better future. As for the criminal investigation of crimes against children, there must be specialized investigators, police officers and judges to better understand the cases. But improvements are lacking, such as care for migrant children; In all cases, psychosocial care is essential, which must be given in various State institutions.

What bottlenecks stop the approval of the Protection System?

–According to what we understand, the law does not have major detractors because it does not raise controversial issues, but rather a reorganization and reordering of the protection system with greater participation at the departmental level with services close to children. What is lacking is political will from Congress and a push from the Executive to pass the law, which is an opportunity to change the situation for children.

What is the panorama of the country if laws in favor of children are not approved?

–It is necessary to invest adequately in the demographic bonus, which is a source of wealth, a determined investment is required. Recently, the United Nations supported the Ministry of Finance, Segeplan and several institutions that are part of child care. An estimate has been made of the human and financial resources to implement the Great Crusade for Nutrition. Since the investment in children is lower than that of surrounding countries and it is required to increase this investment in an accelerated manner.

Should sex education be promoted in the country, since women from an early age are mothers?

Adolescent pregnancy is a complex issue. There is a national plan that we have supported since its implementation and that is that comprehensive sexual education is needed according to the age of each child, not only education on the biology of reproduction, but also what surrounds sexuality that has to do with the couple relationship. With the management of conflicts, a protective environment is also needed for girls in cases in which they are victims in their home. Girls need to be in general secondary school. It is proven that adolescents who are in school have reduced the number of pregnancies.

What are the results of investing in children, especially girls?

–From education, enabling secondary schools closer to the communities, the impacts will be positive. Like gender equity, and with the human development of youth, there is an economic development of the country. Since they are given the tools to manage their lives, they should take advantage of the time due to the demographic bonus to build a fairer, more progressive and safer society. So we make a call to seek gender equality. By ensuring investment in boys and girls, but especially in girls from early childhood, we ensure that they have opportunities such as secondary school, where we see a gender disparity.

Program Support

  • The UNICEF representative stressed that among the social programs that must continue are cash transfers to low-income families. It is proven to reduce poverty and not as some people say.
  • Likewise, Carrera commented that in the coming weeks the data on malnutrition in the country will be released. Since in 2019 a loan was approved for this problem, but progress is slow.

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“If you invest in children, especially girls, you will have a more progressive and safe society”, Carlos Carrera, from UNICEF

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