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Community Defense Boards Promote Child Protection in Ecuador

Home > Learn More > Stories & News > Community Defense Boards Promote Child Protection in Ecuador
By Veronica Travez, ChildFund Ecuador
Posted on 7/14/2016

"I like being a Community Defender, because I learn many things and I can help not only my family, but also other families in my community,” says Sandra, the mother of a young child from Carchi, Ecuador.

Stretched along the northern edge of Ecuador and bordering Colombia, Carchi is one of the smallest provinces in the country. Because of its location, Carchi’s economy is mainly driven by trade and transportation, and people often leave the area to find work elsewhere. This migration has caused many families to fall apart, and alcohol and drug consumption and widespread use of corporal punishment are common problems in communities throughout the province.

ChildFund collaborated with local partner organization la Federación de Asociaciones Comunitarias del Carchi (FEDACC) to conduct community consultations, speaking with children and teenagers to get a sense of the issues they face in their daily lives. Many reported that when their parents are drunk, they mistreat them. Some children also said they do not know where to turn when they are victims of aggression.

After identifying these problems, ChildFund and FEDACC began shaping Community Defense Boards in three cantons in Carchi — Huaca, Garcia Moreno and Colorado. These boards, each made up of 12 volunteers chosen by the community, encourage community participation in promoting, protecting and monitoring children’s rights. Board members are trained in human rights, leadership, child protection, self-esteem building, and conflict resolution. “I teach my children about their rights and responsibilities,” Sandra says. “In my house, there is no maltreatment; we all respect and treat each other well.”

The Community Defense Boards are also part of the Rights Integrated Protection System at the national level, which means that members are trained to identify and access local and national governmental and non-governmental resources for support, such as for training sessions or reporting mechanisms for serious child protection cases. Alcohol and drug use in Sandra’s community prompted the Community Defense Board to request support from special government agencies to conduct awareness lectures about children’s rights and the consequences of drugs and alcohol. The board also requested more control on the sale of alcohol to minors. "Since the lectures, we have seen a change in the young people about this issue in the community,” says Bertha, another mother who belongs to a Community Defense Board. “There has been much less alcohol consumption and fewer cases of young people using drugs.”

In this community and others in the Carchi province, the Community Defense Boards are working to illuminate and fight for the rights of children — one child, one family and one community at a time.