OAS Assembly: indigenous, Afro-descendant, migrant and refugee children and adolescents demand action against racism, xenophobia and discrimination

  • October 06, 2022
  • Area: Education, Governance, Humanitarian aid, Protection
  • During a parallel event that counted with the participation of representatives from the State, international organizations, and civil society

Gathered in a parallel event to the OAS General Assembly, representatives of indigenous, Afro-descendant, migrant and refugee children and adolescents called attention to the serious consequences of racism, xenophobia and discrimination. Before Peruvian authorities, civil society spokespersons and members of international organizations, they demanded concrete actions against these problems.

“Migrant children are victims of discrimination because of their accent or customs that differ from the country that receives them. Many of us hide where we are from because we are not wanted. Discrimination affects us emotionally, it affects us as people, it affects our performance, and we fall into terrible depression. How do you get ahead when you are limited even by the way you speak?” was the testimony shared by Ana Paula, a Venezuelan teenager.

Taariq, a teenager of African descent, remarked that many Afro-Peruvian children suffer discrimination because of the color of their skin. She also questioned the fact that a logic centered on the vision of adults still prevails in decision-making spaces. “Adults do not take us into account and that limits our freedom, it is frustrating that they do not listen to our voice,” she said.

Both adolescents agreed that they need more spaces for the participation of children and adolescents. They indicated that their representation should not only be guaranteed in State bodies, but also in civil society and international organizations. As a preliminary step, said Ana Paula and Taariq, it is necessary to make visible the specific ways in which different problems affect children and adolescents, particularly indigenous, Afro-descendant, migrant and refugee children.

Along these lines, Víctor Giorgi, Director General of the Inter-American Children’s Institute of the OAS (IIN-OAS), expressed his concern about the low visibility of this population, historically excluded and discriminated against in different spaces. He also indicated that many decision-makers do not include these human groups as interlocutors.

Verónica Valdivieso, Country Director of Save the Children, stressed the importance of listening to children, ensuring that they are the protagonists of the decisions that involve them. Evelyn Buenaño, Director of Advocacy and Communications of the same organization, emphasized the intersectionality of many structural problems.

Tarcila Rivera, Director of the Center for Indigenous Cultures in Peru (CHIRAPAQ), commented on the need for a truly inclusive education system that recognizes diversity, as many indigenous girls are forced to receive their education in Spanish, which is often not their native language. “This undermines self-esteem, identity. The system crushes us. The structural problems have not been overcome,” she said.

Oswaldo Bilbao, director of the Center for Ethnic Development (CEDET), stressed the need to consider different axes of exclusion when proposing solutions. For example, in the case of the Afro-Peruvian people, he pointed out that 8 out of 10 children suffer some deprivation of access to basic services.

Roberto Rojas, Chief of the Vulnerable Groups Section of the OAS Department of Social Inclusion, underscored the importance of establishing intergenerational dialogues to devise appropriate solutions to racism and inequality. He also indicated that it is necessary to ensure that adult-centered organizations listen to indigenous, Afro-descendant, migrant and refugee children and adolescents.

International panelists at the event included Betilde Muñoz, from the OAS; Víctor Giorgi, Inter-American Children’s Institute; Julio Croci, from the International Organization for Migration (IOM); Sandra del Pino, from the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO); Ysabel Limache, from the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF); and German Freire, from the World Bank (WB).

Representing the Peruvian State were Sonia Cavaliè Apac, head of the Human Rights Special Investigations Program of the Ombudsman’s Office; Erica Reupo Aiquipa, specialist of the General Directorate of Children and Adolescents of the Ministry of Women and Vulnerable Populations; Hans Heinrich Behr Lescano, director of Migration Policy of the National Superintendence of Migration; and Ricardo Diaz Pinedo, director of Indigenous Peoples of the Ministry of Culture.

Oscar Pérez, director of Unión Venezolana, and representatives of the organizations involved in the event participated as representatives of the civil society.


The side event was organized by: Save the Children Peru, the Department of Social Inclusion of the Secretariat for Access to Rights and Equity of the Organization of American States (OAS), the Inter-American Network of High Authorities on Policies for Afrodescendant Population (RIAFRO, for its acronym in Spanish), the Center for Ethnic Development (CEDET), the Center for Indigenous Cultures in Peru (CHIRAPAQ) and the Ministry of Culture of Peru.

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