UNICEF to use information from community violence talks to protect children’s rights in Peru

UNICEF’s office in Peru is planning to use information from discussions it hosted earlier this year on community violence to improve the use of its resources and programs aimed at protecting the rights of children in the South American nation.

UNICEF launched a pilot violence prevention program in Ventanilla, a district located in the seaport city of Callao, which borders Peru’s capital Lima, that included numerous meetings on preventing youth violence, the agency said in a statement.

Participants, which included youth, parents and community members, discussed violence in the district and how it can be prevented by parents and teachers.

One student recounted how violence and intimidation by gangs led some of his classmates to drop out of school, where there was a large gang presence.

“The gangs used to go to the school and wait outside for someone to beat up whenever they had a fight,” said 18-year-old Orlando Mera, adding that there were more than 10 gangs in his Ventanilla neighborhood while growing up.

Community members and teachers at the school hired security staff to help prevent violence towards students by helping at the end of a school day, while school staff also talked directly with gang members, according to the UNICEF release.

According to Mera, increasing security staff and having school staff talk directly with gang members has resulted in some improvements.

Community members have also worked with the local government to create a center where residents can receive support – including legal advice and referrals – to address violence in Ventanilla, which has a population of some 275,000 residents, of whom 38% are under 18 years old.

Parents have also sought support to strengthen parenting skills, including communication with their children.

UNICEF may expand the program to other regions in Peru over the next two years.

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