By Marta García Terán. Sixteen-year-old Felix Brooks is a tall, thin boy who talks very confidently. He is studying fifth year at secondary school in Bilwi and is determined to be a lawyer. “I didn’t know we had the right to live in peace,” he says, reflecting on the importance of knowing this for his life and his future career.
Félix is participating in a cycle of five training sessions for 126 adolescents from the municipalities of Bilwi in the North Atlantic Autonomous Region, Bluefields in the South Atlantic Autonomous Region and Somoto in the department of Madriz, where the strategy for the Network of Adolescent Communicators for the Prevention of Sexual Abuse through Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) is being implemented. This strategy is part of the #ENDViolence global initiative for the elimination of violence against children that was initiated in 2013 by UNICEF and calls for public recognition of the problem of violence against children.
“I was embarrassed about saying things, but in these workshops I learned to communicate with other people, to learn about myself and to defend my rights,” Félix explains, adding that his communication with his family has improved. The Network of Communicators strategy has allowed the boys and girls to reflect on their experiences of the kinds of violence they have suffered and exercised, as well as the gender roles and power relations that sustain them.
“I’ve also learned to make videos and take photos with a cell phone,” says Félix, referring to communication component of this strategy, which seeks to promote the participation and empowerment of adolescents with the aim of producing a greater impact in terms of their participation and decision-making in their own municipalities. The strategy also aims to train them to create communication products that help to prevent sexual abuse and to disseminate information about it.
Félix has a cell phone he uses to talk to his mother and father, and also for chatting with his friends, of course. “I have internet at home,” he says. “I do my school work from 3pm to 5pm and after 5pm I can surf the net; I go on Facebook and watch films.” He is the exception in the group of 40 kids in Bilwi, most of whom can only access the internet if they have enough money to pay for an hour in a cybercafé.
These workshops stress good practices in the use of technology and social networks. “Now I eliminate the ‘friends’ I don’t know on my Facebook page and don’t accept anyone who sends me a request without a photo,” Félix explains. The Network of Communicators strategy even benefits those who have not had access to the internet or a cell phone, as thanks to the sessions these girls and boys are trained to prevent situations of violence both online and offline.