Vulnerability of Youth

Together Alive Youth Link
Together Alive Youth Link

The term vulnerability is defined as being susceptible to attack, physical or emotional harm. Vulnerable populations are those who are more susceptible than others to attack, physical or emotional harm. According to Pergamit M, youth who come from vulnerable populations are more at risk of poor adulthood outcomes as a result of circumstances such as being raised in a single parent, low-income family, unsafe neighborhoods, or experience mental health and disabilities. These circumstances are just some of the factors of youth’s lives which he or she has no control over. Youth can also put themselves at risk of poor adulthood outcomes by taking part in risky behaviors such as substance abuse, early sexual behavior, dropping out of school and careless or criminal behavior (Pergamit M). In this topical wiki we will explain and explore the concept of youth vulnerability in Latin America and we will work together as a group to illustrate the pertinent issues.
We have approached this particular issue from a very educated and statistical point of view with many subtopics since youth vulnerability is a very complex topic. We have used this approach as a group in order to effectively present the topic of youth vulnerability and to avoid any assumptions or stereotypes that may be present regarding the youth in these countries.

Why are the youth vulnerable in Latin America?

According to Pergamit M, youth from low income families are more vulnerable and the likelihood of this youth never being connected to school or work between the ages of 18 and 24 is high. In Latin America only a small minority of the population are part of the upper classes, this means that most youth from this region come from lower-income families and are therefore considered to be very vulnerable. The United Nations Settlement Programme seems to agree with this in their definition of youth at risk as ‘‘young people whose background places them ‘‘at risk’’ of future offending or victimization due to environmental, social and family conditions that hinder their personal development and successful integration into the economy and society’’( United Nations Settlement Progamme). According to the United Nations Settlement Programme, youth in Latin America are most vulnerable to social exclusion. Social exclusion means a lack of belonging, acceptance, and recognition which prevents individuals or groups from full participation in the society they live (Youth And Children ). According to Bárcena A, L. L. (2008), violence committed upon and by the youth in Latin America is a result of material and symbolic social exclusion. In other words since youth in Latin America are being socially excluded in some way they engage in deviant behavior such as joining gangs and engaging in violent activities. The social exclusion has taken this form due to inequality of opportunities, lack of access to employment, and alienation among youth who are neither studying nor working (Bárcena A, L. L. 2008). In the later years youth violence has become an increasingly important issues to address. Violence has grown in recent years in Latin America and young people represent most of the victims of violence and perpetrators (Bárcena A, L. L. 2008).

There are no simple answers when it comes to youth vulnerability. However, youth who are or have grown up in poverty are more vulnerable than wealthy youth, rural youth are on average more vulnerable than urban youth and those with few social bonds are more vulnerable than those with more social bonds (Bagby E). The reason why youth are so vulnerable in Latin America is because so many come from poverty and therefore don’t have as many opportunities as the youth in Europe, who have the option of choosing whether he/she would like to attend college/university in order to excel in their lives. Many youth in Latin America do not even have the option of a higher education or education at all, which is what makes them so vulnerable to external factors like the crash in Argentina. Since the youth in Latin America often aren’t very educated (or cannot afford education) they are not able to get a high paying job or even a job with benefits, therefore if something where to happen to them personally or they were to be fired they have no safety net to fall back on, unlike the youth in Canada or Europe. Youth in Latin America are therefore significantly more vulnerable than the youth in Canada/Europe would be because of factors such as limited opportunities or having come from a low income family. Most of the factors that make youth so vulnerable in Latin America are not something the youth can control or prevent themselves, which is why it is important that the government steps in to help these vulnerable youth grow and develop.

What is the situation of Youth Vulnerability in Latin America?

Youth vulnerability is an alarming issue in Latin America that has critically affected the nation. According to a twenty-three year old girl named Susana from Argentina, the purpose her need to work in relation to her own youth vulnerability is because she "represents a group of young people from the outlying suburbs who work because they have to help their families. In many cases these are families where the parents are separated and the young people are taking care of their families. It’s like switching roles. Young people don’t do work that they like, they work because they have to in order to survive.”(Herndon, 2009, pp. 24)

In relation to youth vulnerability in Latin America, specifically in Argentina the author Herndon states, “If youth are educated and skilled, they can be a tremendous asset. If not, they can burden society and public finances. The majority of youth in Argentina make good decisions and are educated, skilled, and healthy. Youth have low crime and violence rates, moderate to low drug abuse, and an active— but moderate— movement (piqueteros) through which they are engaging politically. But 46 percent of Argentina’s youth are at risk. Over 2 million (31 percent) have already engaged in risky behaviors and another 1 million (15 percent) are exposed to key risk factors that are correlated with eventual risky behaviors… The consequences of these risky behaviors- unemployment, adolescent pregnancy, sexually-transmitted diseases, addiction, incarceration, violence, and social exclusion-make it difficult for youth to transition successfully to adulthood.” (Herndon, 2009, pp. 25) )

As stated above, it is correct to assume that many youth who are in poor socio-economic situations or poverty are at a greater risk than others who have the opportunities for better life situation outcomes. Herndon goes on to affirm “A significant number of these youth share a strong sense of injustice, believing that economic growth and state policies have not benefited them. With so many unfulfilled expectations and so little to lose, some poor youth have become disaffected (Fundación Banco de la Provincia de Buenos Aires 2005; Vommaro 2000; Garcette 2005). A large proportion of poor youth identify insecurity, inequality, and lack of political representation as the critical issues they face. Although youth violence in Argentina is not as prevalent or severe as in Central America or Brazil, poor youth increasingly feel insecure (Kuasñosky and Szulik 1996; Rodgers 1999, 2005).” (2009, pp. 25)

A recent study was done in 2007 for the World Development report that summed up how prevalent youth vulnerability for those in the age range of 15 to 24 years in Latin America and the Caribbean. Poverty not only caused bigger issues facing youth but also provided them with little or no resources as to any help that could be offered. With the problems that these youth faced, the consequences of risky behavior became more prevalent through early school dropouts, unemployment, the use and abuse of illegal substances, risky sexual behaviors, early parenthood, and one’s lack of participation in civic duties with an increase of participation in crime and violence.

Due to these consequences, poverty, poor education, low employment and gangs have a vast negative influence on Latin America and the Caribbean. Although, there are means and measures being taken by different governments throughout the nation, youth are still facing the negative effects of youth vulnerability and negative results to their life situations despite the government’s lack of policies being offered. “Increasingly, Latin American policy makers— typically mayors, as well as a growing number of central government officials— are asking the World Bank for advice on how to design programs and strategies to alleviate urban poverty. Mexico and other countries have started aggressively developing urban poverty programs. Providing such policy advice requires answering a number of questions. What is specifically urban about poor people living in cities? Are the determinants of poverty different in urban areas? Is the type of deprivation suffered by the poor in cities different from that which occurs in the countryside?... [as many who live in poverty move to city, the reality of poverty still remains.] Living in a city means living in a monetized economy, where cash must be generated to survive. To earn cash, the poor need to integrate into labor markets. Obstacles to this integration have perhaps less to do with lack of jobs and opportunities (as is the case in rural areas) and more to do with lack of skills; the inability to get to work (transport, child care); and social and societal issues (lack of social relations, the stigma associated with living in slums, cultural norms precluding women’s participation in the labor force).” (Fay, 2005, pp. 36)

Many youth fail to see the consequences of their actions, despite the life situations that they are presently in. One of the answers to this problem is to provide better education opportunities for those who are trapped in the negative results of poverty. “Successfully integrating the poor and the marginal remains a challenge to becoming more competitive globally. Human capital is nurtured early in life, first at home, then in child care, preschool, and primary school. As the global wave of economic and technological change demands more from workers, more and more children continue to secondary school. Higher levels of education can protect against the negative impacts of economic cycles.” (Herndon, 2009, pp. 43)

What this means is not only does education need to be taken in helping in the success of those youth who are at risk, but also the government in the policies and actions that need to be done in order to prevent the widespread negative influence of youth vulnerability in Latin America and the Caribbean. Herndon states that “Tapping the potential of its young population— specifically its at-risk youth— and investing heavily in human capital formation will allow Argentina to improve economic growth, reduce poverty, and build a more secure society.” (Herndon, 2009, pp. 116) Not only is this the answer for Argentina but the other Latin American countries as well.

What opportunities are currently available for Latin American Youth?

People within society view their youth as who will be able to achieve even more than themselves have. It is known that in Latin America, even the most impoverished invest a great deal in the education of children and youth so that they can achieve more than the prior generations have through acquiring jobs and working towards a better quality of life than they themselves once knew. Through popular belief, youth are associated with hope, and this belief evokes a vision of opportunity or the future, usually conceived as something better than the present. Nonetheless, is a stage of learning and training, and a time of indecision, rather than of certainty. Today, this can be viewed in the different government programs that are now available to Latin American and Caribbean youth.

The Simón Bolivar Youth Orchestra Influencing Venezuela's Children One Music Note at a Time

The Simon Bolivar Youth Orchestra focuses to systematize music education and to promote the collective practice of music through symphony and choruses in order to help children and young people in achieving their full potential and acquiring values that favor their growth and have a positive impact on their lives in society. The Orchestra has implemented a vision which the State Foundation for the National System Youth and Children’s Orchestras of Venezuela ( Fundación del Estado para el Sistema Nacional de Orquestas Juveniles e Infantiles de Venezuela) became a dedicated organizationcommitted to social development through an innovative and hope-instilling music education program, distinguished by its excellence and for having a positive impact on the communities where it is implemented.

Below, is an external link about a government program that was instituted in Venezuela for vulnerable youth living in low socio-economic situations whose behaviors have been shown to lead to at risk behaviors of youth gang membership, drug use, an increase in school drop-out rates, and risky sexual behavior that has led to teenage pregnancy and under-age parents. The Simon Bolivar Youth Orchestra was put into place to allow for opportunities for these vulnerable youth to make more out of their lives by dedicating more time to planned activities and provide a safe place where individual creativity is encouraged and embraced. Through this documentary, a young girl and young adult show the beneficial effects that this program have provided.
"The Pied Piper"

The Latin American and Caribbean Youth Leadership Summit

A modern day example of these government programs are available through the Latin America and Caribbean Youth Leadership Summit which seeks to identify, mobilize and support young leaders, giving them access to training, knowledge, networks and skills to meet the challenges facing their countries and communities, creating an environment for debate and the development of proposals. Responding to the most critical problems confronting the world, the United Nations General Assembly has adopted the Millennium Development Goals (MDG's) , to be achieved by 2015. They are to:
1) eradicate extreme poverty and hunger
2) achieve universal primary education
3) promote gender equality and empower women
4) reduce child mortality
5) improve maternal health
6) combat HIV/AIDS, malaria, and other diseases
7) ensure environmental sustainability
8) develop a global partnership for development.

One way in which the United Nations is encouraging and supporting countries in their quest to fulfill these promises and achieve a more peaceful, prosperous and sustainable world community are through today's young people. The Summit forms an important part of Latin America Caribbean 2015, an initiative of the UN New York Office of Sport for Development and Peace to boost ongoing efforts and trigger bold new steps to support the developing achievements of the Millennium Development Goals in the region. A critical challenge to these goals are the consequences of risky sexual behavior of HIV/AIDS, where early policy response from youth to make better choices can save millions of lives. This is just a small example where young people have to take the lead, through what projects youth leaders and youth movements can initiate and contribute to increase the momentum for the vulnerable youth. One way this is ensured is through the jobs available to Latin American youth.

International Youth Foundation

Despite their many assets and talents, more and more young people around the world are finding themselves without jobs or livelihoods. An estimated 85 million young men and women are currently unemployed, which is a nearly 25% increase over the last 10 years. According to the International Labour Office (ILO), at least 400 million decent and productive jobs will be need to be created in order to reach the full potential of today's youth.Critical to most people’s survival, work also helps define a significant part of who we are and what we can achieve. When an individual feels that they are an important asset to their job their work will allow for opportunities of individual creativity and allowing one to maximize their learning and growth potential which enables one to contribute to society and build a sense of community with those around us. Unemployment, however, erodes that same confidence, severs connections, and fuels feelings of alienation for an individual. Youth who are just beginning to enter the workforce stand on the threshold of searching to find out who they are as individuals and what they can contribute to society. For those who are unsuccessful, the consequences can be devastating and long-term.

International Youth Foundation (IYF) invests in the extraordinary potential of young people. Founded in 1990, IYF builds and maintains a worldwide community of business, governments, and civil society organizations committed to empowering youth to be healthy, productive, and engaged citizens. IYF programs are catalysts of change that help young people obtain a quality education, gain employability skills, make healthy choices, and improve their communities. IYF is based on the premise that throughout the world there are thousands of effective programs and approaches making a profound and lasting difference in young lives. Rather than build new programs from scratch, IYF's mission is to identify programs “that work,” strengthen their impact, and expand their reach so that many more young people may benefit from their work.

All of IYF’s program activity has a key focus around four issue areas, which form the core thrust of IYF’s global youth initiatives. These are: Education Employability, Leadership and Engagement and Health Education and Awareness. IYF has many different ways in which they contribute worldwide. IYF works collaboratively with a global network of partners, recognizes how to work in a multi-sector approach, focuses on prevention which programs identified and supported by IYF and its partners are preventive in nature and promote the confidence, character, competence, and "connectedness" of young people to their family, peers, and community.

  • A Global Network of Partners
In carrying out our mission, IYF works collaboratively with an international reticulum of highly respected, innovative, and independent organizations – each deeply rooted in addressing youth issues at the local level in the specified areas. These IYF in-country Partners are widely recognized as leaders in youth development, and are united by certain core strategies and objectives. IYF brings a strength to their effective programs, advocate for improved policies benefiting children and youth, and increase philanthropy for young people at the local and international level. By linking its Partners to international investors and donors, IYF directs much needed resources to some of the most effective programs serving young people today.

  • A Multi-Sector Approach
Recognizing that no one sector of society has the resources or expertise to effectively address the challenges facing today’s young people, IYF serves as a catalyst to create strategic alliances among the corporate, government, and civil society sectors as a way to maximize the impact and reach of youth development programs. Many of these multi-sectoral partnerships are multi-million dollar initiatives carried out in multiple countries, funded over a period of three to five years. IYF also partners with multi-lateral institutions such as the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and the Multilateral Investment Fund of the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB).

  • Focus on Prevention
Programs provide support and services in such areas as vocational training, health education, recreation, cultural tolerance, environmental awareness, and the development of leadership, conflict resolution, and decision-making skills.
In addition to supporting existing programs, IYF works to increase global awareness of children and youth issues, strengthen the organizational skills of youth program leaders, and promote greater knowledge and application of best practices for young people. The net aim of these efforts is to increase the effectiveness, scale, and sustainability of proven approaches to meeting young people's needs.

One of IYF’s key focuses is on youth employment. They work with our corporate partners to equip young people with the knowledge and skills to actively participate in the "New Economy" through an emphasis on information technology (IT) skills. Likewise, we provide young people with the professional and "life skills" essential to getting and keeping a job. IYF is also collaborating with major global institutions at the policy level to focus greater attention and resources on effective ways to combat youth unemployment worldwide.
Among those IYF-supported initiatives that address youth unemployment are:

  • Youth Work is a Global Development Alliance (GDA) Leader with Associate (LWA) assistance mechanism that USAID missions and bureaus can utilize to access the youth employability programs and services at IYF. The first activity to be funded through Youth:Work is a two-year, US $ 1.5 million expansion of IYF's flagship employability program entra21, in three caribbean countries: Antigua & Barbuda, Grenada, and Jamaica where 700 underserved youth will be supported.
  • Samsung joined IYF in new partnership providing financial support and cutting-edge technology and expertise to help address the employment needs of Africa's Youth.
  • Entra 21: a $25 million initiative with the Multilateral Investment Fund (MIF) of the Inter-American Development Bank to prepare youth in Latin America and the Caribbean for jobs in the information technology field.
  • The Youth Empowerment Program, a two-year partnership led by IYF and Microsoft to improve the employability of disadvantaged African youth, ages 16 to 35, through the provision of demand-driven training in information and communications technology (ICT), life skills, entrepreneurship, and employment services.
  • Through participation in the UN’s Youth Employment Network, IYF is working with representatives of public, private, and nonprofit sector institutions to advise and support the UN, the World Bank, and the International Labor Organization (ILO) in developing the Secretary General’sUSAID: Latin America and Caribbean

USAID- From the American People: Latin America and The Caribbean

The United States has a long history of extending a helping hand to those people overseas struggling to make a better life, recover from a disaster or striving to live in a free and democratic country. It is this caring that stands as a hallmark of the United States around the world -- and shows the world our true character as a nation. U.S. foreign assistance has always had the twofold purpose of furthering America's foreign policy interests in expanding democracy and free markets while improving the lives of the citizens of the developing world. Spending less than one-half of 1 percent of the federal budget, USAID works around the world to achieve these goals.

USAID Priorities in Latin America and Caribbean:

Promoting democratic practices;

  • Advancing economic development;
  • Providing responsive services for particularly marginalized populations;
  • Improving the quality of basic education and health care, especially those of the youth;
  • Providing humanitarian relief to refugees and displaced persons.

One area in which USAID focuses is that of the education of the youth in Latin America and the Caribbean. Many young people today are facing troubles such as influences of gangs, prostitution, war and poverty. Education is slowly disintegrating within the Americas. Latin America and Caribbean region (LAC) continue to face serious challenges. The overall quality of education is poor, and LAC students consistently score near the bottom on international test comparisons.

The compromised quality of education impedes the ability of the region to move forward politically and economically. LAC lags behind its competitors educationally. Young workers in the region enter the labor force with fewer years of education than do workers in countries of similar incomes in Asia and the Middle East. In some of the countries in which USAID works, as many as four out of ten students do not complete primary school, and even more do not go on to secondary school. Of those who enroll in secondary school, at least 40 percent do not graduate. As few as 30 percent of students read and write at grade level. A growing number of youth leave school without basic literacy and life skills and, because of a rise in youth unemployment, are susceptible to joining gangs, committing crimes, and remaining in poverty.

Indigenous, rural, and poor urban students particularly suffer from unequal access to quality education. The responsibility for the high numbers of illiterate children lies partially with the teachers. A good number have not finished secondary school. Many are ill-prepared and have insufficient materials and support in the classroom. High rates of students who have to repeat a class drains already inadequate education investments.

Training and Support
USAID views education as one of the best development investments. Improved educational quality is linked to strengthened human capacity that supports development across all sectors, especially improved health, more vibrant economic growth, more democratic governance, and improved environmental management.
USAID focuses its education activities in the LAC region to:

  • Upgrade teacher skills and improving the quality of instruction
Through integrated, school-based approaches to reform, USAID has succeeded in improving educational quality in the classroom. Examples include model school programs in Nicaragua, Expanding Education Horizons in Jamaica, and AprenDes in Peru.

  • Increase community engagement that contributes to education reform
USAID strengthens policy analysis and dialogue among government and civil society, raising the profile of education as an issue for public debate. One example is in Guatemala where dialogue resulted in agreement on a common political agenda for education.

  • Raise the quality of instruction through the use of learning standards and assessment
USAID helps ministries of education revise and improve national learning standards and performance assessment, as well as curriculum and teaching materials. For example, In Honduras, Guatemala, and the Dominican Republic, USAID helps the government implement standards and testing, drawing on relevant international best practices.

  • Provide disadvantaged students with the opportunity for a high-quality education
Part of USAID’s strategy in the region is providing increased access to disadvantaged and poor students. In Haiti, USAID provides primary school scholarships to poor children who otherwise could not attend school. In Honduras, the Educatodos program gives youth who have dropped out of school a second chance to complete their basic education

  • Increase higher education opportunities for indigenous or disadvantaged young leaders
USAID provides technical training scholarships for disadvantaged young leaders and professionals to attend U.S. community colleges and universities.

With the continuation of correct training and support LAC education within the youth will increase and continue to manage a rapid growth in the region.

In addition to the country-based education programs, the LAC Bureau implements a number of regional programs that involve multiple missions and cross-regional learning and exchange of the best ideas and practices. LAC’s regional programs aim to improve the teaching of literacy across the hemisphere and strengthen the policy dialogue on education reform.

These programs include:
The Centers of Excellence for Teacher Training (CETT) focuses on improving reading because it is the foundation for all future learning. CETT provides a model for effective teacher training to upgrade the reading instruction skills of classroom teachers in Grades 1, 2, and 3. CETT coordinates with teacher training institutions in LAC to train highly skilled and motivated teachers who will give their pupils a strong reading and writing foundation. Since its inception in 2002, CETT has trained over 25,000 teachers and helped over 730,000 underprivileged students in 16 countries get a better education. Currently alliances with governments and the private sector are expanding CETT to more teachers and schools.

The Partnership for Educational Revitalization in the Americas (PREAL)
For nearly 15 years, PREAL has helped to improve the quality of education in the region by conducting quality research, disseminating best practices, and monitoring national and regional progress on improving education systems. PREAL works with civil society groups to produce national Education Report Cards, which are disseminated to a diverse non-technical audience and enhance national capacity to promote reform. PREAL’s establishment of new business-education alliances has contributed to increased private sector engagement in educational policy dialogue. PREAL also publishes and distributes papers such as “Education in Haiti: The Way Forward” and “The Paradox of a Good Student: Race and the Brazilian Education System,” to further inform and stimulate dialogue.
Scholarships for Education and Economic Development (SEED) provides higher education scholarships to US community colleges and universities for poor, disadvantaged, and disabled students from seven countries including Mexico, Haiti, Dominican Republic, Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, and Nicaragua. Students receive two-year technical or shorter-term professional training in sectors key to their countries’ social and economic development. The training complements bilateral activities by strengthening human capacity for transformational development.

Another area of focus as to where USAID is in Brazil. Brazil faces challenges in economic growth related to unemployment rate, which has reached over 10 percent. Among the Brazilian youth, it has reached 20 percent, including 52 percent in the Northeast region. These youngsters face social, economic and educational difficulties that limit their ability to secure formal employment. Given the high standards required by the job market, many of these youth abandon school in search of informal occupations. In addition, the lack of foreign language capability impedes youngsters from attaining well-paying jobs and causes concern for companies requiring qualified professionals.
It is crucial for Brazilian youth from disadvantaged communities to develop job skills so that they can avoid chronic unemployment. Focusing the Northeast region, the USAID Youth Employability program integrated approach has fostered the development of professional skills and has helped youth to become proactive, socially engaged citizens. The program methodology allows a rapid response to changing market demands, incorporating technical and life skills together with professional counseling to increase youth’s capacity to obtain and retain jobs.

What is USAID doing in this area?

The Employability and Technology (E&T) training develops the skills necessary for professional and individual development. In a dynamic and computer-focused learning environment, it covers topics such as effective communication, information and technology, professional behavior, entrepreurship, and leadership - with a focus on learning computers and dynamic activities. Upon completion of training, youth continue to receive assistance from USAID and its partners to provide them with opportunities for effective placement in the formal job market.
English Language Learning
Building on the E&T training, the English Language training expands students’ understanding about market needs and the competitive advantages of learning a foreign language. It uses an active learning approach with special emphasis on pronunciation and communication, enabling youth to converse in English in both social and professional settings.
Connecting Youth and the Job Market
USAID/Brazil Youth Employability Program is particularly successful at forming partnerships with the private sector and encouraging companies to employ disadvantaged youth. Brazilian employers have found that, when afforded both technical and life-skills training, disadvantaged youth bring vitality to their companies. This mutually beneficial commitment is a key ingredient to sustaining growth and generating employment.

What does USAID expect to achieve?
USAID expects to:

  • Increase productive/formal employment and income generation capacity of the impoverished youth to promote their social and economic inclusion and Brazil’s economic growth;
  • Increase the number of disadvantaged youth access to English Language training focus on job market;
  • Promote public-private partnerships to sustain and replicate the program methodology in the Northeast region;
  • Incorporate youth mentorship and internship programs as part of the policies of public and private sector partners’ organizations.

Save The Children Canada

Save the Children-Canada is an organization which helps the youth and along provide support for their families. Save the Children Canada's work focuses on preventing violence against children, providing access to appropriate education, reducing harmful child work by improving their working conditions, HIV and AIDS prevention, emergency response and promoting children's rights.

In South America 60 percent of the children are estimated to be living in poverty. Though decades of political instability, internal conflicts and natural disasters boys and girls in this region remain vulnerable to abuse, poverty, violence, and lack adequate education and protection.Save the Children has worked in Latin American and the Caribbean in areas such as, Bolivia, Colombia, Haiti, Nicaragua and Peru. The International Save the Children Alliance also works in Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Ecuador, Paraguay, Peru, Uruguay and Venezuela.

Save the Children Canada works to protect children by encouraging them to understand their rights, through access to education and training, by fostering safe environments, and by the development of peace-building skills. Save the Children Canada funds programs to help children and their families in Bolivia and Colombia. Children in Colombia face poverty, abuse and insecurity. Many are poorly nourished and do not have access to adequate healthcare and proper education. Exploitative forms of child work are spreading and HIV/AIDS is a growing threat. Young people are most affected by the war through forced removal from their homes, loss of access to services, lack of protection, injury, threat of kidnap and recruitment by armed groups. Save the Children Canada is forging partnerships with governments and other agencies to continue implementing programs to make lasting improvements in the health and well-being of these children. For example, we recently partnered with CIDA to establish a significant program to expand the education system in Colombia by a form called Rewriting Colombian Children's Futures.

In Haiti, despite political instability, Save the Children works to deliver essential and effective services for children. They deliver child rights and child protection programs, and support children rescued from living on the streets. In 2007, the Rewrite the Future campaign for children living in countries affected by conflict, will begin to address overcrowding and dilapidated school structures, out-of-date textbooks, and the training of additional teachers across the country.
Nicaragua is one of the poorest countries in Latin America. While parents see the value in sending their children to school, many schools do not have desks, teaching materials, texts, washrooms, libraries or qualified teachers. Only 29% of children complete primary school. The health system is weak with few services available in rural communities. In Nicaragua, 36 % of children are not legally registered at birth, due to administrative, legal and cultural reasons. Save the Children Canada runs programs in Nicaragua that have ensured over 21,000 children receive their first-ever birth certificate, and worked in schools to disseminate information about the damaging impact of abuse, violence and sexual exploitation of children.

Education and Children's Rights
Save the Children Canada focuses on promoting the rights of marginalized girls and boys, integrating children with disabilities into formal schools, and helping working children transition into, and remain in the formal school system.
Our program called "Consolidating the Rights of Children in South America" protects and promotes the rights of children through education, prevention of child abuse, HIIV and AIDS and advocacy work. The program uses local media to lobby for reforms to legislation and regulation.

For example, their education program involved the mainstreaming and implementation of bilingual and intercultural classroom texts and materials. The formal education system is exclusive by nature - many children do not speak Spanish as their native language and do not identify with the Western style or content. Hundreds of teachers have been trained in intercultural methods and over one hundred schools are implementing a culturally appropriate school curriculum.

Save The Children Canada's programs are designed to increase access to quality education within the public school system and to promote peace building and leadership skills for children affected by armed in conflict in three of the most affected areas of the country.

In 2003, Save the Children Canada, in partnership with CIDA, provided $2.5 million to help displaced children in Colombia obtain an education. Over three years, the project will also teach peace building and leadership skills to children in Bogotá, Villavicenio and Medellin. By the end of its third year, 2,818 children will have attended school in the project areas and we will have provided a safer and productive non-formal learning environment for 6,000 school children. Through learning, students have been shown that there are many life-choices available to them other than working in the drug trade. Education is a major force in protecting children from violence.

In the past year, Save the Children Canada has funded seven local, three regional, and three national networks in Colombia, which work to protect the rights of children and youth. These organizations and networks facilitate skills building, strengthen leadership, protect children from getting involved in illicit activities, promote children's right to life and quality education, and involve children and youth in policy dialogue and advocacy.

Save The Children Canada- Projects in Peru

The children in the Andean Highlands of Peru are poor and rarely attend school. Rates of attendance, repeated grades, and dropouts are symptomatic of poor quality education. Lack of textbooks and teaching supplies, irrelevant curriculum, poorly trained teachers, lack of appropriate school infrastructure, distance to schools and corporal punishment are some of the challenges we address. Save the Children's work is geared toward improved access to relevant, quality education and toward the improvement of literacy and skills training for marginalized children, child workers, rural children and children with disabilities. Specifically, we are promoting the rights of indigenous boys and girls in schools that respect cultural diversity, integrating children with disabilities into the school system, and advocating for better rural access to basic education.

Child Labour
Domestic labour is very common in South America, and it is also poorly regulated. With the help of Taipy and Defence for Children International in Bolivia, and CESIP and Casa Panchita in Peru, young girls who come from rural areas to work in cities as domestic workers have learned about their rights, received life skills training, raised their self-esteem, gained access to formal education through night schools programs, and participated in psychological counselling. Save the Children Canada helped draft protection legislation for domestic workers and lobbied for its approval. Girls involved in the domestic workers program are now receiving training on this law and the benefits to which they are entitled. Children and their families in the communities from where these girls migrate are also participating in awareness-raising and information workshops on the benefits and challenges of working as domestic workers.

What is the purpose of Youth Vulnerability?

The Phenomenon of Youth Gangs

In the 1990’s, Latin America experienced an exponential growth in youth gangs or, according to the different areas and countries, maras, bandas, chimbas, barras, parches, pandillas, quadrilhas, or galeras cariocas.
Youth gangs reportedly exist in
Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Mexico, Nicaragua, Peru, Jamaica, and Puerto Rico. Although studies in the following areas have yet to be produced, the presence of youth gangs has also been reported in Belize, Honduras, Panama, Uruguay and Venezuela, and most recently in Ecuador. Some facts report these devastating outcomes of youth vulnerability:

In Nicaragua, according to data provided by the Nicaraguan National Police, there are around 110 pandillas in the only city of Managua, with approximately 8,500 affiliates.
In Mexico City and Guayaquil, there are approximately 1,500 bandas.
· In Chile, subcultures with different attitudes and normative beliefs have been identified in urban and rural groups of criminal youth
· In Medellin, there are approximately 200 youth gangs with affiliates as young as 8 or 10 years of age
In Rio de Janeiro there are around 6000 adolescents between the ages of 10 and 18 involved in the drug gangs that control most of the favelas

The recent upsurge of youth gangs in the city are strongly associated with the rise of cocaine and crack cocaine in the drug markets, the availability of firearms, high rates of youth unemployment, and chronically high levels of social and economic inequality. In a city where rates of urban poverty are extremely high and where 36% of adolescents in the lower socio-economic strata neither study nor work, the earning opportunities offered by drug gangs are seen as exceptional.
Welfare, bartering, informal economic arrangements, and illegal economies thus become substitutes for licit earning opportunities, simply because people must find a way to live.

Number of Youth Gangs in Central America, 1999

El Salvador
Estimated number of Youth gangs
Estimated number of youth gang members


Gangs represent an attempt by young people to reconstruct their identities, and to rebel against institutions such as family, school, and sometimes, the labour market that have been damaged by chronic inequality and exclusion. They are a violent means of rebellion, a way of condemning the lack of opportunities available to them and the State’s failure to address their needs. They present alternative sources of income, and a means of reconstructing that sense of security, belonging, recognition, and participation that society seems to deny them.

The problem of violence is not a new phenomenon in the Latin American region. With an average of 28.4 homicides per 100,000 inhabitants, the region registers one of the highest rates of homicide and criminal victimization in the world. The rate for the region rose over 44 percent during the 1984-1994 period. According to the Pan-American Health Organisation, of all the homicides reported, 28.7 percent were attributable to young men of 10-19 years of age

Homicide rates among youths aged 10/29 years by country: most recent year available

Total Number of Deaths
Homicide rate per 100,000 aged 10-29
El Salvador

Causes of the upsurge of violence in the region:
1.Fast urbanization process experienced by countries such as El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Peru, and Mexico
2.Persistent poverty
4.Political violence
5.Inadequacy of social services
6.Consolidation of transnational crime organizations
7.Spread of drug use and drug trafficking
8.Disintegration of families and social networks
9.Availablilty of weapons

In a lot of the larger urban centres, there are a significant number of children working in hazardous sectors such as prostitution and drug trafficking. A survey conducted in 1992 in Colombia revealed that 26 percent of the women involved in prostitution were between the ages of 11 and 20 years old.

Anti Child Prositution Advertisement

Youth Unemployment and Education
Many years of high population growth rates and inadequate education have much of Latin America with a glut of unskilled labour, causing the unemployment of youth to rise to unprecedented levels. In 1995, unemployed youths represented 40-50 percent of the total number of the unemployed in Argentina, 49 percent in Brazil, 44 percent in Colombia, 43 percent in El Salvador, 59 percent in Honduras, and 51 percent in Mexico.

In all countries of the Latin American region, youth unemployment is higher among low-income youth, signifying that youth unemployment is not uniquely due to labour surplus, but to unequal access to services and opportunities. Access to quality education in the Latin American region still seems to be the privilege of the more wealthy classes. Although primary education is free and compulsory for all, drop-out rates remain high, and approximately 30 percent of children do not complete primary education. Secondary school completion also remains very low, compromising the ability of young people to acquire the human capital needed to find appropriate employment in the formal market sector. Unequal access to education and slow efforts at providing secondary education for all strata of the population has caused inequalities to widen. Also, the disappearance of low-skilled jobs, particularly when associated with other risk-factors, such as low educational attainment and scarce or non-existent provision of social services, is an extremely dangerous condition for young marginalized people, who are easily led into illicit activities to generate an income.

The vulnerability of the youth to poverty and marginalization is clearly shown by the amount of adolescents working to supplement family income. The International Labour Office estimates that there are at least 15 million children working in Latin America. Approximately half of these children are between the ages of 6 and 14 years old. Most of them are likely working jobs that are in the informal sector and in unsafe conditions.

In Latin America, the implementation of the structural adjustment reforms during the mid-1980s and the curtailing of public expenditure on social services have both contributed to the further worsening of poverty and inequality, and to provoking a significant decline in earning and employment opportunities. Unemployment and underemployment, especially among young people, is high throughout the region. When inequality and poverty overlap, the temptation for poor urban dwellers to resort to crime and violence increases, and delinquency has its origins in economic and social conditions, which is to say in high incidences of poverty, inequality and poor basic services.

Urban violence does not originate in poverty per se but, as demonstrated by statistical studies and research, in impoverishment and inequality. In Chile, a recent study, conducted in the metropolitan region, has estimated that an increase of just one point in the unemployment rate is enough to provoke a four percent increase in property crimes. The increase of violent crime in the region is hence strictly linked with the urbanization of poverty and with the increase of inequality and social polarization provoked by the introduction of the structural adjustment reforms.

The problem of youth violence, while highly complex and multifaceted, can thus be described as a violent reaction to an unequal and unjust society, which seems to offer few opportunities for so-called disadvantaged youths to break out of the circle of poverty and exclusion. In urban settings, where poverty is higher among female-headed households and where a growing number of children live with single mothers, it has recently been estimated that 44 percent of children live in poverty. Additionally, at the time when the young people currently in education were born, between 1976 and 1985, all Latin American countries curtailed public expenditure on social services, aggravating forms of exclusion which became particularly evident in the education and employment sectors.
Bárcena A, L. L. (2008).

Youth that are living in low-income families and deprived neighbourhoods, experience trauma and stress related to poor and overcrowded living conditions, domestic violence, lack of quality education, exclusion from the labour market, lack of recreation areas and facilities, police violence, and, in many cases, discrimination. This deprivation along with other socio-economic problems tend to go ignored, which then leads to a higher number of crimes committed by poor and marginalized people against equally impoverished individuals.

Other correlated factors
There are many other individual, household, community, societal and institutional factors, which, when combined with poverty, inequality and the frustrations deriving from those conditions, contribute to the increase in youth violence.

The availability and proliferation of firearms are a serious cause of youth delinquency. Guns have become a central factor of youth violence. In many Latin American cities, adolescents possess weapons, such as guns, out of a desire to be in a gang membership, and to be respected as well as feared.
Some quick facts, represent the increase of fire arm use within Latin American youth:

· In the single year of 1998, six out every ten violent deaths in the municipality of San Salvador were the result of firearms or explosives.
· In Colombia, it is estimated that about one in four males possesses a gun. Between 1985-1994, youth homicides increased by 159 percent, from 36.7 per 100,000 to 95.0 per 100,000, with 80 percent of cases, at the end of this period, involving guns.

The possession and use of these lethal weapons is also heavily linked to the expansion of the drug market because guns have become a necessary tool of the drug trade when they are consistently being used to protect: the money gained from drug sales and the drug cartel and dealers, along with settling disputes and securing territory. Substance use and abuse of drug is on the rise throughout the region, due to the number of young people who consume narcotic substances and their involvement in drug sales is on the rise. Many large urban centres in Latin America are experiencing a normalization of drug trafficking.
For instance, in low-income areas of Rio de Janeiro, children have become so exposed to drugs that they consider drug-dealing and fighting to be almost “normal” and legitimate ways of living.
For many young, unemployed and often marginalized people, drug trafficking is also an easy source of profit, and offers an opportunity to gain social status.In the Latin American context, the proliferation of guns, expansion of the drug market and increased levels of youth violence are associated with what is commonly referred as the “absence of the State”. The “absence of the State” refers mainly here to the inability of the State to enforce the law, to combat corruption, and to protect the lower classes from abuses of power. This can be seen through the example of the corruption of the policy in a search for missing dead girls with no trace to who their killers are.

Today, marked social inequalities, besides socially and economically excluding large segments of the population, are also undermining the rule of law as elites successfully claim privileges and infringe formal rule. At the same time, lower social classes are often treated as sub-citizens whose rights are not protected. Police corruption and brutality have contributing to exacerbating the problem.
Unfortunately social programs specifically designed to reintegrate marginalized youths are insufficient throughout the region, and anti-poverty policies which aim to lift families out of economic and social deprivation are still largely inadequate.


There are no easy solutions to the problems of youth delinquency. The causes of child and youth violence are almost overwhelmingly complicated and multi-factorial, and thus must be addressed on multiple levels and simultaneously by many sectors of society. This includes addressing individual, household and community factors, but especially the larger cultural, social, political and economic factors that contribute to the proliferation of violence .Without these structural interventions, the problem of youth violence in the region may possibly be contained, but are unlikely to be eradicated.

The nurturing of young people and their development into productive citizens is today one of the biggest challenges facing the Latin American continent. Although significant improvements have been made; millions of adolescents still live in poverty, excluded from society, and trapped in vicious circles of illegality and informality. Re-integrating these youths into mainstream society is not only a matter of achieving sustainable growth: it is also a matter of choosing a more dignified, human and just model of development. A centralized institution specifically dedicated to analyzing and tackling youth issues, to putting them on the agenda at all levels, to setting targets and monitoring results, and to coordinating efforts for the overall inclusion and development of youth, would be greatly beneficial.

In order for these beneficial factors to take place, government policy recommendations have been put into place to secure the opportunities for at risk youth. These
government policy recommendations include:

· the introduction of redistributive policies through taxation and more equal distribution of assets
· the implementation of nationwide poverty reduction strategies
· the promotion of competent governance
· effective mediation between domestic and international economies with the creation of new employment opportunities
· the introduction of a solid social security system, and the promotion and defence of human rights

As these government policies come to be more integrated into the Latin American society at youth risk will be given better learning outcomes of their individual person lives. An increase in the awareness of potential at risk consequences provided to youth and more learning opportunities will allow for a more stable and safer society to be ensured. Herndon stated that youth are a definite asset to society and when given the opportunity they can and will change the way in which society runs; "Healthy, educated, engaged, employed, and productive youth are [the] key to breaking the intergenerational cycle of poverty, achieving sustained growth, and building security. When given a chance to participate and contribute, the young may provide much-needed innovation and play a catalytic role in promoting democracy and economic growth; they can create enterprises and generate employment, increase incomes and help connect the country to the rest of the world; they can help younger children— and whole communities— to develop; and they can contribute to slowing the AIDS pandemic and conserving the environment with responsibility." (Herndon, 2009, pp. 117) "Guatemala's Gangland" "Hidden Hunger- Guatemala"


Bagby E, C. W. (n.d.). Early Identification of At- Risk Youth in Latin America . Retrieved March 25, 2010, from Application of cluster analysis:

Bárcena A, L. L. (2008).
Cepal. Retrieved february 28, 2010, from Social Panorama of Latin America:

Farlex. (n.d.). The free dictionary. Retrieved March 25, 2010, from Vulnerability :

Fay, Marianne (Editor). Urban Poor in Latin America.
Herndon, VA, USA: World Bank, The, 2005. p 235.
Copyright © 2005. World Bank, The. All rights reserved.

International Labour Organization.(2008). Decent Work and Youth: Latin America Report. Retrieved March 23, 2010 from

International Youth Foundation.(n.d.). Retrieved March 14, 2010, From Programs that Work :

Latin American Youth Centre . (n.d.). Retrieved March 7, 2010, from Mission :

Murillo, J. M. (n.d.).
Analysis: Honduras' violent youth gangs. Retrieved March 5, 2010, from United Press International:

Pergamit M, V. T. (n.d.). Vulnerable Youth and the Transition to Adulthood. Retrieved March 1, 2010, from Princeton University:

Report, ECLAC. (2009, December 9). Economic Commission of Latin America and the Caribbean. Retrieved March 4, 2010, from Poverty Declines Slightly in Latin America and the Caribbean, in Spite of Global Financial Crisis:

Save the Children Canada. (2009). Where we work: Latin America and The Caribbean: Retrieved March 25, 2010, from Latin America and the Caribbean :

The Simón Bolívar Youth Orchestra. (n.d.). Retrieved March 24, 2010, From The National System of Youth and Children's Orchestras of Venezuela :

The Wold Bank: Gender and Development. (2010). Retrieved March 1, 2010, from Risk and Vulnerability Factors/Considerations for Youth:,,contentMDK:21405113~isCURL:Y~pagePK:210058~piPK:10062~theSitePK:336868,00.html

Together Alive Youth Link. (n.d.). Retrieved March 28, 2010, from

World Bank. Argentine Youth : An Untapped Potential?.
Herndon, VA, USA: World Bank, The, 2009. p 24.
Copyright © 2009. World Bank, The. All rights reserved.

Kovaleski, Serge F. (2000, January 2). Child Sex Trade Rises In Central America: Prostitution Is ‘Dark Side of Tourism’. The Washington Post. pp. A17

The Latin American and Caribbean Youth Leadership Summit.( n.d.) Retrieved March 23, 2010 from The Global Peace Initiative of Women, Youth Leadership Summit

The History of Child and Youth in Latin America. Retrieved March 23, 2010 from World History Archives

Cultural Diversity. Retrieved March 25, 2010 from CCIVS: Co-coordinating Committee for International Voluntary Service

Youth and Employment in Latin America and the Caribbean: Problems, Prospects, and Options (2010) Retrieved March 25,2010 from Google website:

Youth And Children . (n.d.). Retrieved March 20, 2010, from Social Challenges: Social Exclusion :

The Prevention of Youth Violence in Latin America: Lessons Learned and Future Challenges (2010) Retrieved March 23, 2010 from Wilson Centre On Demand:

AlJazeeraEnglish. (2008, December 05). Violence takes toll on Latin American youth- 06 Dec 08 [video file]. Retrieved March 25,2010 from

USAID:From the American People-Latin America and the Caribbean. (August 11,2009). Education in Latin America and the Carribean. Retrieved March 25, 2010 from

United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization.(2010). Retrieved March 29, 2010 from Education: Latin America and the Caribbean :

Vidiot9000. (2007, December 12). Gangs Central America [video file]. Retrieved from

United Nations Settlement Programme - International Conference on Urban Youth at Risk: Strong families, Caring Communities and Inclusive cites '' The LAC experience''. (n.d.). Retrieved March 1, 2010 , from UrbanYouth-At-Risk in Latin America and the Caribbean and the Key Role of local authorities in addressing youth and crime and promoting citizenship among youth: (2003, September). Youth Violence and Delinquency in the Latin American Region.