They shared and reflected on their experiences and challenges
Bluefields. Thirty-five adolescents with behavioural problems, 18 of them (16 boys and 2 girls) with custodial sentences and 17 of them (all of them boys) with non-custodial measures, participated in a play- and experience-based workshop on building new masculinities to understand and develop more tolerant and respectful ways of acting. This activity is part of the “Violence Prevention” programme UNICEF is supporting through Nicaragua’s Supreme Court of Justice and National Police.
“For UNICEF, working with adolescents is a priority to provide them with opportunities and skills for their comprehensive development and so they can access equitable violence prevention and response services,” explained María Lily Rodríguez, the UNICEF Nicaragua adolescent protection and participation specialist. “We consider adolescents to be agents of change. Reflecting with them on issues such as gender equity, new masculinities and the peaceful resolution of conflicts, as well as encouraging them to change behaviours, will have an impact on their lives in their families and communities. That is why we are working on violence prevention with the Supreme Court of Justice and the National Police.”
The workshop was implemented by the Juvenile Penal System’s Technical Follow-Up Office (OTSSPA) with the participation of the Juvenile Penal Court and the National Police’s Juvenile Affairs Directorate. The three-day activity was held at the National Police’s Young for Change centre in the city of Bluefields in Nicaragua’s Southern Caribbean Coast Autonomous Region.
One of the workshop participants, who at the age of 19 is already a father of two and serving a three-year prison sentence for robbery, said sadly that “As young people we’ve grown up at a difficult time. We want to get things quickly and opportunities present themselves that aren’t good. They offer you the chance to make money and that’s why we do things that aren’t right.”
The programme has two components. The first is training on new masculinities and the peaceful resolution of conflicts for the OTSSPA’s multidisciplinary technical teams and 17 directors of the juvenile penal courts across the country. The second component is direct work with adolescents in custody or with non-custodial measures who are receiving follow up from the National Police’s Juvenile Affairs Directorate. The programme has four prioritised municipalities—Bluefields, Bilwi, Matagalpa and Somoto—but its influence has a national impact.
“I learned a lot of new things about machismo,” one young female participant said. “At the beginning of the workshop all the guys justified men’s supremacy over women—in other words, machismo. But I was left quite clear that we’re equal in the eyes of the law and so nobody can subject you to his will just because he’s a man.”
Parallel workshop in Bilwi
A similar workshop was simultaneously held in the city of Bilwi in the Northern Caribbean Coast Autonomous Region with the participation of 19 adolescents in custody and 12 with non-custodial measures, two of them girls.
“This is the end of a process in which we all learned, but the beginning of many changes. Adolescents must be empowered to be agents of change in their homes and communities,” stated a satisfied Arelli Méndez, who is a Supreme Court official and the programme coordinator. “If only one of them reintegrates and gets ahead in life, then all the effort invested will have been worthwhile.”
The workshop was facilitated by Moisés Sánchez Cordero and David Gómez Barbosa of the organisation Accionar. According to Sánchez “The experiences in each workshop like this one also help us because learning starts in the cradle and ends in the grave.”
The programme has produced didactic tools for the issues involved in the work with adolescents in situations of risk at the national level, which are used by OTSSPA and the Juvenile Penal Courts throughout the country. The work teams have acquired new competencies to be promoted in areas that do not have any specialists. Adolescents can be agents of change in their groups, their communities and at school and the idea is for those who participated in the workshops to train others and develop leadership in their community.
UNICEF promotes the rights and wellbeing of every child, in everything we do. Together with our partners, we work in 190 countries and territories to translate that commitment into practical action, focusing special effort on reaching the most vulnerable and excluded children, to the benefit of all children, everywhere.
For more information about UNICEF and its work visit: www.unicef.org
Olga Moraga, Communication Specialist, UNICEF Nicaragua firstname.lastname@example.org.