As a mother of two children ages 7 and 9, there are times in life that my heart breaks when I hear about tragic injustices being done to children. This is one of them.
Last week I was contacted by a new powerful campaign called “La Alianza Ayuda” spearheaded by LatinWorks and La Alianza, the Central American branch of US-based Covenant House to raise awareness about the unspeakable: The rampant sexual abuse that is plaguing young girls across Guatemala. Tragically, the issue of sexual abuse committed against girls in Guatemala has become one of the most serious social issues in the country as thousands of adolescent children are sexually abused by relatives.
The statistics of sexual abuse against girls in Guatemala are horrifying:
- In 2013 alone, according to The Monitoring Center of Sexual Health and Reproduction in Guatemala, more than 60,000 girls and adolescents between the ages of 10 and 19 gave birth. This equates to 173 pregnancies every day, and 7.2 every hour.
- Of these 60,000, 4,356 are girls under 14 years of age and 89% of their abusers are family members (among them 30% are their own fathers) per a study conducted by the PDH (Procuraduria de los Derechos).
La Alianza, the Central American counterpart to the US-based Covenant House, has partnered with LatinWorks to create La Alianza Ayuda “Alianza Help”, an online Pinterest campaign that will engage the world in an effort to raise funds and awareness of the pandemic sexual abuse of Guatemalan girls.
The theme for La Alianza Ayuda will center on images of abandoned toys that are being placed for adoption. Each toy has a unique story profiling an account of a young girl that Alianza has helped who has been victimized by abuse. The abandoned toys represent the lost childhood of each girl that has been displaced and has suffered the effects of abuse, both physical and emotional.
Visitors will be able to read a series of stories that are all based on facts and make a one-time pledge of any denomination to adopt a toy. Although the identities of the victims have been changed to maintain their anonymity, the images featured are all of the real girls. The participation of these young victims is indicative of their perseverance and desire to get their message out to the world and bring about change. Funds raised through the campaign will be used by La Alianza to offer continued support for abuse victims.
The following video link provides a brief overview of the campaign:
Here are two more short but powerful videos about the campaign:
Covenant House opened its first residence in Guatemala in 1981 and grew over the years to become a safe haven for thousands of boys and girls who found themselves homeless, abused, abandoned, or exploited. In January of 2009, Covenant House was forced to close its program in Guatemala due to lack of funding, but was able to reopen later that year with a program dedicated to trafficked and sexually exploited girls. Our new program, known as “La Alianza” or “The Covenant,” was opened in December of 2010 as a safe house for girls between the ages of 12 and 18. The residence initially housed 12 girls but has expanded over time to serve trafficked and exploited teen moms as well.
Guatemala is a hotbed of human trafficking. As the 2012 U.S. Department of State Trafficking in Persons Report aptly states, “Guatemala is a source, transit, and destination country for Guatemalan men, women, and children who are exploited in sex trafficking and subjected to forced labor.” Human trafficking in Guatemala affects the most marginalized and voiceless populations, especially homeless youth, thus the work of Covenant House in Guatemala over the past 32 years has had great importance in helping hundreds of trafficking victims seek protection, legal support, rehabilitation and other services.
Currently, La Alianza operates one residence which houses an average of 50-60 girls and their babies. The girls are provided with the same host of services that are a part of all of our programs in Latin America. La Alianza is hoping to find the funds to open a similar facility for trafficked boys.
In addition, La Alianza began a Human Trafficking Prevention and Education Program in 2009 to encourage awareness of the prevalent issues involved in human trafficking. Since then, La Alianza’s Public Education Team has trained over 6,000 citizens, including teachers, community leaders, parents, children and teens. In addition, more than 1,000 members of the National Police have been trained in the Guatemalan anti-trafficking law and how to enforce it accordingly. La Alianza has gained recognition for its Advocacy Program and the extensive work done with the media, awareness and education campaigns, and coordinating with other organizations to prevent trafficking of children and protect the human rights of children in Guatemala.
- Safe house for Trafficked Girls
- Street Outreach
- Human Trafficking Prevention and Education Program
- Advocacy Program
- Medical Care
- Social Work Services
- Psychological Therapies
- Workshops on health and hygiene
- Formal Education
- Vocational Training
- Family Reunification
- Legal Aid
- Spiritual Support
Carolina Escobar Sarti