The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated the situation of vulnerability in which migrant girls and adolescents find themselves.
Panama City, Panama, October 7. – Save the Children presents the study “Girls in mobility in the Central American and Venezuelan contexts” in order to make visible the risks and needs of girls and adolescents in Latin America through their own voice, who will be the protagonists of the launching event.
Of the estimated 79.5 million displaced people in the world, 31 million are children. In the case of Venezuela, it is estimated that more than 5 million people have left the country. As part of the study prepared by Save the Children, the girls interviewed mentioned the common experience of hunger, lack of services and the political situation as a reason for migration. “We left because of the way things are (…) we only ate at dinner time,” says 13-year-old Alejandra*, a Venezuelan teenager now living in Colombia.
The study – presented virtually with the participation of representatives from Central American government agencies, international and civil society organizations in Latin America – also reveals that girls and adolescents who left Venezuela to migrate to Colombia mentioned eating three meals a day as a positive result of their move. In their home country, 28% of girls and pregnant women suffer from acute malnutrition.
In the case of Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador, most people migrate because of the conditions of poverty and violence in their countries. “We left my country because my father was very violent with my mother. He beat her, he threatened her, he also beat me,” says Jessyca*, a 9-year-old girl who left Honduras with her mother because of domestic violence.
“Many girls travel with the financial and emotional support of parents, family or community members residing in other countries, yet that support is often insufficient to protect girls against a multitude of risks.”says Victoria Ward, Save the Children’s Regional Director for Latin America and the Caribbean.
“Girls and adolescents who migrate face increased risk of violence, including sexual violence, unwanted pregnancy and labor exploitation. Often these dangers are sustained at the destination where economic needs limit their opportunities for education and development,” says Ward.
The study also reveals that the majority of girls and adolescents do not have accurate information about their journey when they begin their migration process. During transit, in addition to being exposed to different types of violence, they experience moments of crisis, anxiety, insomnia and other mental health disorders.
In the Venezuelan context, xenophobia is present, becoming an additional obstacle to social integration, while in the Central American case, the stigmatization of returnees is permanent.
“These results require us as international organizations, as well as States, to provide an agile, coordinated and transformative response that is based on listening to and learning from the girls themselves,” says Victoria Ward.
The study used a participatory consultation methodology, listening to and learning from the girls themselves. Focus groups were conducted with girls and adolescents, in addition to consultations with Save the Children staff in Colombia and Mexico, as well as with different authorities and social organizations that serve the migrant population.
In the study, the girls themselves share the different strategies they must use for self-protection and continuity in the face of any challenge, starting with developing friendships during the trip or moving forward in groups with people close to them to protect each other.
As a result of the research, Save the Children calls on international and civil society organizations and other key actors to invest in the care of girls and adolescents in mobility from origin to destination, to provide safe spaces and psychosocial support for children in mobility, ensuring adequate care and attention, and to advocate for States to include a gender and children’s approach in migration policies.
Save the children
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