Néstor Eduardo Coleman ©UNICEF Nicar
By Marta García Terán.- The teenager of Miskito ethnicity sitting in front of me is playing with his seat as I start to ask him questions. Néstor Eduardo Coleman has “just turned 17,” as he puts it.
Néstor is a member of the Network of Child and Adolescent Communicators for the Prevention of Sexual Abuse through Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs), established in 2014 in Bilwi in Nicaragua’s Northern Caribbean Coast Autonomous Region (RACCN). The Network is a strategy that forms part of the UNICEF #ENDViolence global initiative for the elimination of violence against children, which initiated in 2013.
“I didn’t want to go, but in the end I went to see what was going on,” Néstor recalls, reflecting on the first Network workshop he attended after being invited by the National Police, which came to his neighbourhood to propose that adolescents like him participate in a training process that involved communication techniques, human rights and the prevention of violence. “I learned a lot of things in the workshops,” he says firmly. “It was a new world for me. Before that I didn’t feel like a person.” He remembers arriving on the first day of the workshop and seeing girls and boys playing and learning in a way he had never seen before.
During our conversation he talks about the video, radio and photography communication techniques they use in the Network to create messages on the prevention of sexual abuse. The technique he most liked learning was “stop motion,” a kind of traditional animation that consists of editing a sequence of still photos one after the other to generate movement. “We can use this knowledge to provide messages,” he states with satisfaction.
Néstor looks at his black shoes, which are the same colour as his trousers and shirt, as he talks about the importance of knowing the techniques used by sexual abusers and what actions can be taken to prevent this kind of violence. Finally he confesses that the workshops and being with teenagers of his own age made him reflect on his life and what he was doing.
Néstor is studying third year at secondary school in night classes as he has been working in a cabinetmaker’s workshop since he was 10 years old. At school they have noticed that he has changed as a person over the last two years. “I was rebellious before,” he states, looking me in the eyes. “But other people can change just like I have.” He says he is an example in his school now thanks to the reflection process he has participated in as part of the Network.
“The change must come from within you,” he says firmly. The change Néstor has undergone has also been noted at home, where he lives with his mum and dad, two sisters and a brother. He is aware now when things get tense, with his brother for example, so he thinks things over first and does not allow himself to get carried away by the situation.
Néstor also talks sadly about a friend he has known since they were kids and who is in a vulnerable situation. “He’s like a brother to me,” he says. He shares with his friend what he has learned in the workshops and reflection sessions that have enabled him to change and become a better person over the course of the process he has been involved in. “He can change, too, if he really wants to,” Néstor insists.
Néstor looks down at his shoes again when I ask him if what he has experienced has allowed him to open up and speak in public. He laughs and, maintaining eye contact with me, says that he used to be shy, but is now talking more and does not feel so embarrassed. He is aware that he now has a new ability, which is also part of the change he has undergone.
As well as studying, Néstor wants to finishing secondary school and be an army cadet in order to continue learning. “I want to be a pilot,” he says full of hope. He knows it will be hard, but his conviction will help him obtain his goal.
The strategy of the Network of Child and Adolescent Communicators for the Prevention of Sexual Abuse through ICTs involves training 150 adolescents from Bilwi and Bluefields in Nicaragua’s Caribbean Coast region and in Somoto and San Lucas in the country’s northern region. This initiative is part of the programme with adolescents promoted by UNICEF in Nicaragua, seeking to empower their rights to generate a movement that creates and enhances alliances in which adults and institutions continue having the main responsibility for accompanying adolescents and responding to their demands.