Young advocate for children’s rights
Attorney Maricielo Vilchez, 26, is in charge of the Local Ombudsperson’s Office for Children and Adolescents (DEMUNA) in the district of Catacaos, Piura. Her role is ensuring compliance with the rights of children and adolescents in her municipality and to attend to cases of domestic violence, desertion, and alimony, among others.
In 2017, the DEMUNA office was left uninhabitable due to the flooding caused by the coastal El Niño phenomenon. As a result, Maricielo took on the challenge of including the Disaster Risk Management (DRM) approach in her area. She formed the DRM technical team within the Multisectoral Committee for the Rights of Children and Adolescents, with which she has been preparing DEMUNA’s Contingency Plan, as well as seeking to integrate the District Risk Management Platform and the Working Group.
“With the El Niño coastal, Catacaos was very affected. The DEMUNA office was flooded and inoperative, and my own house was damaged. (…) We were not prepared. We didn’t know about disaster prevention, nor did we have a containment plan for our children”.
During 2018 and 2019, a team from Save the Children arrived to meet with different key institutions in Catacaos, including DEMUNA and the Civil Defense Institute. The organization proposed to implement DRM measures with a child protection and vulnerable populations approach.”
Maricielo participated in several training sessions with Save the Children’s team. At the same time, she began to work closely with the Deputy Management of Disaster Risk Management of the Municipality of Catacaos, as well as with Civil Defense and community leaders to strengthen disaster prevention measures with risk management while maintaining a community and inclusive approach.
“We have managed to organize fairs in small towns such as Narihualá, Pedregal Grande and Pedregal Chico, deliver emergency backpacks to families and have supported the organization of drills”.
Risk management and child protection from the community
Catacaos is still in the process of reconstruction. However, the DEMUNA is back in operation and today has a new child friendly space. “The space is designed so that children and adolescents feel safe and can alert us to situations that violate their rights,” says Maricielo.
In addition to the fairs and workshops organized by DEMUNA, Maricielo explains that they have the Promoters-Advocates, who are community leaders trained to deal with children and adolescents
“They are residents who will inform us of any incident that breaches the rights of children and adolescents in their respective localities, so that DEMUNA can deal with these cases”.
Maricielo hopes that during 2020 the Municipality of Catacaos will approve and implement the Emergency Contingency Plan for Children, “I think it is very important to promote, from the municipalities, the inclusion of risk and disaster management policies that consider the needs of children and adolescents,” she says.
Her concern for the children and adolescents of Catacaos inspires her to continue working with a child protection and risk and disaster management approach in her locality.
About the intervention:
The project “Disaster Risks Prevention and Reduction with a Protection Approach in Piura” has been implemented by Save the Children with support from the Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance of the United States Agency for International Development (OFDA/USAID). This intervention promotes a better child protection system after the floods caused by the coastal El Niño phenomenon in 2017, in the districts of Cura Mori and Catacaos in Piura.
The project works at the district and community levels with strategies that include measures to guarantee non-discrimination, access, equity and equal opportunities for girls, boys and adolescents. At the district level, the project works hand in hand with local government authorities and officials to build their capacities and promote risk and disaster management actions with a child protection approach. Likewise, there is work done with communities to generate community networks, led by community leaders trained by the project, to implement risk prevention and child protection actions in case of disasters