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Homelessness in Honduras
As of the end of 2017, homelessness in Honduras was a prevalent issue. In fact, the IDMC (Internal Displacement Monitoring Center) reported that there were at least 432,000 IDPs (Internal Displacements) in the countries of El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras. Many of them left cities due to high rates of homicide and “levels of violence comparable to that of war zones.”

With Honduras having a high economic rate over the past years, reports have still determined that more than 60% of Hondurans live in poverty. In 2016, Habitat for Humanity estimated that the housing deficit for Honduras was over 1 million units. Meanwhile, in 2018, more than 17,000 people experienced displacement due to natural disasters and violence. Among these stark numbers, the topic of street children in Honduras has broken the ice as one organization reported that “an estimate 6,000 adolescents live on the streets of Tegucigalpa and San Pedro Sula alone” and about 800,000 minors do not attend school or have employment. Here is some information about child homelessness in Honduras.

Child Homelessness in Honduras

Unfortunately, the reality for these children is more than not having a roof over their heads or beds to sleep in. Most of these kids have to earn their wages by selling artifacts, washing windows and begging as a means of survival. For those who are pushed to the limits, joining a street gang might be their only option as they seek a means for protection and ultimate survival.

The push to join the infamous “mara” gangs of Honduras has presented an even greater danger as Honduran children have increasingly participated in the frontlines of gang violence. The New York Times reported that, according to the Violence Observatory at the National Autonomous University of Honduras, “in 2012, the number of murder victims ages 10 to 14 had doubled to 81 from 40 in 2008.” Due to this violence, families have taken the extreme measure of sending their children to the U.S./Mexico border to seek refuge. In 2014, in a span of 4 months, more than 2,200 children arrived at the border from the city of San Pedro Sula in Honduras.

While Honduras saw the pertinence of child homicide rates, rather than alleviating the problem through increased social services, the Government of Honduras liquidated the Honduran Institute for Children and Families, which had run since 1998, in May 2014. The Government also closed all the children’s shelters along with it. Its reason for the cut in funding came from the ineffectiveness of political appointees who used 90% of the budget to pay salaries. Along with that, as nonprofit youth shelter Casa Alianza began to increasingly report on the high murder rate of children, the government denied the evidence and turned its face on the issue.

Casa Alianza

With the lack of government assistance, local and international NGOs have had to step up to provide shelter. Covenant House, or Casa Alianza, is just one of these organizations that hope to serve the homeless youth community. Casa Alianza opened its doors in Honduras back in 1987 and was the second Latin American site for the larger organization, Covenant House. Its methodology is simple; it gains the children’s trust by providing a safe and engaging environment and then either helps them return to their families or offers to allow them to stay at its residence centers. Jose Guadalupe Ruelas, the executive director of Casa Alianza, reported that thousands of children have found a home through this nonprofit shelter for homeless youth.

Combined with the stress of finding a proper meal and a place to sleep, homeless children in Honduras have been facing daily struggles of keeping themselves safe from street gangs and hoping not to become another number on a “murder rate” statistic. The constant danger and lack of funding from governmental agencies exacerbate the problem of child homelessness in Honduras further.

While organizations like Casa Alianza have provided much-needed assistance to this vulnerable population, governmental support and advocacy are necessary in order to properly address this concerning issue.

– Ana Paola Asturias
Photo: Flickr

feminist movement in Nicaragua
Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega has been the source of recent uprisings, protests and a nationwide mobilization. Recurrent mishandlings of serious social, environmental and equality issues are causing national unrest that is far from over. The protests are ultimately trying to strike the Ortega administration out of the game. The public has no intention of settling for corruption, oppression and gender inequality. A great part of this movement is the renewed vigor in the feminist movement in Nicaragua.

The History of the Feminist Movement in Nicaragua

Nicaragua is no stranger to the feminist movement. The women’s movement for equality was actually birthed during the overthrow of the repressive Somoza dictatorship. The percentage of women involved in the coup reached a record high. The 60s and 70s gave women the chance to separate themselves from their traditional roles and participate in the struggle of war instead; it brought a revolutionary consciousness to the reality of numerous gender inequalities.

The country is currently pushing for equal rights via an end to gender-based violence and oppression. Women’s equality accounts for fair wages, respect and better opportunities in both education and careers, which are all crucial factors for lifting people out of poverty.

The New Womens’ Movements

Vital to the success of the revolution, women have since materialized the feminist movement in Nicaragua into a national network of feminine support encompassing any and all socio-economic, ethnic and political backgrounds.

A direct response to shifting public policy, The Working and Unemployed Women’s Movement or Maria Elena Cuadra (MEC), was founded in 1994. This independent organization strives to not only defend the human, labor and gender rights of Nicaraguan women but also to help women assert and take advantage of these rights, especially within the legal arena.

MEC brings public awareness about both domestic violence and reproductive health, which are two serious living conditions that can negatively exacerbate the cycle of poverty. The unemployed are given job training and their advocates push political policy that supports economic independence, self-employment and self-management.

A Modern Day Push

It is not uncommon for Latin American countries to revolve around highly macho and patriarchal societies. High school degrees and the pursuit of higher university education are rare in rural communities, and women often drop their studies as a result of pregnancy. Working as a street vendor to provide income for the family is not uncommon; however, even more problematic is the tragedy of families selling off their children into the sex trafficking business due to extreme poverty.

A group by the name Grupo de Mujeres Xitlali was established in 2011 to help relieve these devastating living conditions and empower girls and women of Nicaragua to take hold of their own lives. The organization helps the oppressed women to regain power over their bodies and personal development as well as grow in a space of equality where their rights are actively defended and encouraged.

Similarly, Casa Alianza Nicaragua (CAN) provides great relief to the devastation of global sex trafficking. Opened in 1998 in the capital city of Managua, Casa Alianza provides centers and programs for homeless women and children in need of aid. One of their greatest visions is to provide empowerment to the victims of heinous trafficking and violence through vocational training, family education, housing as well as gender awareness and sexual diversity awareness projects.

One by one and step by step, advocates are building women back up and encouraging them to stand up and stand out. Via essential education, job training and empowerment, women are now getting the attention, awareness, recognition and care that they deserve. Despite a grueling journey under the Ortega administration, the fight continues to be fought.

– Mary Grace Miller
Photo: Flickr

Guatemala Street ChildrenIt is estimated that there are between 1,500 and 5,000 street children in Guatemala City, Guatemala. Approximately 65 percent of these children are between the ages of 10 and 17 — and around 30 percent are girls.

Street children are those for whom the street has become their real home — a situation in which there is no protection, supervision or direction from responsible adults. Consequently, most of these children live and sleep on the street, with some taking refuge in parks or under stairs.

Children living on the streets migrate from rural areas of Guatemala or from Honduras or El Salvador. This migration is caused by the extreme poverty in Guatemala, which is both widespread and severe. According to the World Bank, “approximately 75 percent of the population is estimated to live below the poverty line, which is defined as an income that is insufficient to purchase a basic basket of goods and services.”

The main sources of income for these children are usually activities such as robbery, begging and prostitution. Specialist Irving Epstein indicated that “many children inhale the fumes of shoe glue or paint thinner, often their only avenue to escape hunger, pain and hopelessness.”

Due to the lack of access to any educational institution, these children are more likely to choose violent pathways and tend to join street gangs. In 2005, approximately 10,000 Guatemalan children were members of street gangs.

Unfortunately, joining these street gangs comes at a price. According to Epstein, “violence between street gangs is common and is often used as an excuse by the national police and private security guards to harass and beat street children.”

Additionally, condom use is irregular and the pregnancy rate among the girls is high. This is unfortunate for many reasons, but largely because these girls hardly have what they need to take care of themselves and do not have the capacity to raise a child.

The social panorama in which street children find themselves living reflects the widespread poverty and severe inequality existing in Guatemala. Yet the plight of street children is hardly uncommon amongst developing countries.

However, several governmental and nongovernmental organizations have become active in Guatemala City since 2003. With his wife, former president Alvaro Arzu opened a center that provides both traditional humanitarian aid, such as food, shelter and clothing, and long-term sustainable aid, such as health services and education, to the homeless.

Casa Alianza is another agency working in Guatemala City that has provided several services for street children. It promotes residential and outreach programs, legal aid, drug rehabilitation and other vital services.

Children living in the streets of Guatemala are the most vulnerable to major social issues. Nonetheless, these initiatives are fighting to ensure a better life for these children, and hopefully in the coming years, Guatemala may see fewer children living alone and in destitution.

Isabella Rölz

Sources: World Bank, Google Books
Photo: Hansen Photo