The Plight of Children in Modern Mexico

Mexico's 40 million children face poverty, violence, abuse. Expert calls for community support and action to empower them and create a safer future for this vulnerable population.

The Plight of Children in Modern Mexico
Building a safety net: Community support for Mexico's children.

Almost 40 million girls, boys, and adolescents live in Mexico, which means that one in three people is in the age range of zero to 18 years; They represent, on average, 30 percent of the total population and half of them live in poverty, highlights the academic from the National School of Social Work (ENTS) of the UNAM, Carmen Gabriela Ruiz Serrano.

According to the National Council for the Evaluation of Social Development Policy, nine out of every 10 children and adolescents who speak an indigenous language are in poverty and are unable to fully satisfy their rights, highlighted in an interview regarding the Day of the Boy and Girl, which is commemorated in Mexico on April 30.

The researcher emphasizes that this reality is expressed in different problems: structural violence where poverty, inequality, and lack of opportunities play a fundamental role; and, furthermore, those that are experienced in the domestic sphere in the form of sexual and psychological abuse and omission of care.

He details that when talking about childhood, from a social perspective, “we can identify it as a dynamic, related and contextual experience of the first years of life, which allows us to recognize the world, a way of interacting and building bonds.” Therefore, we would not be thinking of this stage of life as a finite time, which ends, but rather a geography and a map that allows us to function in the world. Hence, the importance of taking care of the beginning of life.

She indicates that, based on studies carried out “we know that before the syndemic there were around 30 thousand girls and boys at risk of recruitment by organized crime; After the pandemic the figure rose to approximately 150 thousand. In addition to a 150 percent increase in sexual abuse in these populations and the production of child pornography on social networks.”

Ruiz Serrano states that the United Nations Children's Fund estimates that seven out of every 10 infants have reported some type of bodily abuse experienced within their homes "with an embodied adult-centered culture, where we continue to see girls and boys as unfinished beings." waiting for adult life.”

In that sense, she mentions that when you have people who have experienced these adverse conditions "it is complex, but not impossible, to transform their trajectories and generate new forms of relationships."

Although there are advances in legal terms for their protection, they are recent, since they were implemented from the Convention on the Rights of the Child of 1989. Although it is progress that Mexico has the General Law on the Rights of Girls, Boys and Adolescents, December 2014, these prerogatives have not yet materialized in concrete actions and care scenarios.

The university believes that there is still more to be done to generate adequate conditions for this sector of the population and recognize its members as social, political and cultural actors, with the capacity to act for their own lives, define and achieve their objectives, goals and purposes, as well as choosing and making decisions.

Ruiz Serrano comments that caring for this age group is a social responsibility, and the so-called best interest of children — understood as that fundamental principle where in any controversy their needs must be put at the center — relates to all of us. , although we do not have a role as a dad, mom, or teacher.

It is necessary to think from a community perspective and understand that we are responsible for their care, which is why it would benefit to have that support network to support, for example, that mother of a family who lives stressed, must travel for hours to get there to her work and experiences links of gender violence, she says.

“If we have a sensitive and well-caring community, that boy and girl will know that there is a reference figure that they can access in a time of adversity,” she adds.

The specialist points out that, in the field of mobility, minors who travel alone through our country from the northern triangle of Central America and other nations, to reach the United States, are exposed to conditions of violence.

At UNAM, as the nation's University, we have a great responsibility to have an impact on this issue, to take knowledge out of the classrooms to put it at the service of these populations and generate security scenarios, more sensitive contexts for their care, she states. .

The university student remembers that at the ENTS her line of research is Human Trafficking, located in children and adolescents, through an academic project called Problematics of Childhood in Contemporary Mexico.

We carry out research, teaching, and dissemination work beyond the institution itself, we leave university spaces, we are interested in working in the territory and doing it with teams.