By Marta Garcia Terán.- Steven is a 14-year-old Creole from the city of Bluefields in the South Atlantic Autonomous Region of Nicaragua’s Caribbean Coast. He is a member of the Network of Adolescent Communicators for the Prevention of Sexual Abuse through Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs).
This Network is a participation and empowerment strategy aimed at achieving a greater impact in terms of adolescents’ participation and decision making in their own municipalities. The programme started in January 2014, working with 140 male and female adolescents, including Steven, in three Nicaraguan municipalities: Somoto, Bluefields and Bilwi.
“I’ve felt very good in the training sessions and I’ve made quite a lot of new friends,” Steven says, reflecting on the cycle of five workshops in which he has participated. He stresses that one of the most important things he now knows is the steps for reporting a situation of sexual abuse. He also knows how to produce radio spots, how to make video spots using a cell phone, photography techniques and above all how to use ICTs for the prevention of violence against children.
Steven lives with his grandmother and after each workshop he talks to her about what he has learned. “She tells me that it’s good for me to know about the issue and to report something that’s happening,” he explains. These intergenerational conversations help reinforce what has been learned in the training sessions.
The subject of sexual abuse is not openly talked about among the population because it is a crime that is mainly committed at home by a close family member. “Now I can tell the others what I’ve learned,” Steven stresses, “and I hope that other girls and boys can be trained on the prevention of sexual abuse.”
Steven is one of 47 adolescents that are now part of the Network of Adolescent Communicators in Bluefields who were trained on the crime of sexual abuse as a situation of violence against children. At the same time they also received training on communication techniques and what having a presence in the social networks implies in terms of influencing their peers through violence prevention messages.
“I want to carry on studying,” he says, although he still is not clear what he will do after finishing secondary school. For the moment he is focusing on completing fourth grade at primary school.
The Network of Adolescent Communicators is a strategy for the participation of children and adolescents. It aims to strengthen different competences related to children’s rights and communication techniques so that they can directly express themselves through creative products on topics they are interested in and disseminate them through the social media.
The Programme for the Prevention of Sexual Abuse through ICTs is part of the UNICEF #ENDViolence global initiative for the elimination of violence against children, initiated in 2013. This initiative calls for the public recognition of the problem of violence against children and encourages support for local movements to address that problem, which is so urgent throughout the world.
As a result of this first phase of the programme, these adolescents now have a Facebook page (www.facebook.com/contraelabuso) that they intend to use to reach other teenagers with their violence prevention messages.
A total of 13.5% of Nicaraguans are connected to the internet, according to the International Telecommunication Union (ITU). This represents quite a challenge in terms of access, something that is complicated by the fact that these country data are not disaggregated by sex, age, location, or kind of connection, among others, and we therefore do not know exactly how many Nicaraguan girls, boys and female and male adolescents are accessing the web.