Who are the children and young people you work with?
In the city of Buenos Aires many children and adolescents do the necessary chores so that the adults in the family can work outside of the home in exchange for money. They look after their younger siblings, they take them to school and pick them up, they do the food shopping, and clean and tidy the house. They also work alongside other adults in local markets or family shops. They learn different trades alongside adults with whom they have a trusting relationship, as well as contributing to the work itself.
They can mostly be found working in local markets in socially excluded neighbourhoods. Outside these areas, children and adolescents who work aren’t visible. In our country the policy of prohibition of child labour is very effective in the sense that it manages to hide the children who do work, which has driven child exploitation underground.
Being able to adhere to lockdowns and social distancing is considered a privilege. What do you think about this and what’s the reality of those living in low-income neighbourhoods?
The problem in Argentina, and in all of Latin America, is inequality. One out of every two children in our country lives below the poverty line. Therefore the specific conditions in which quarantine can take place are very different from those in Europe.
To give you an example, there is a house near where one of the members of Asamblea REVELDE lives. Thirty-five people live in this house, which has five rooms and two bathrooms. Two blocks from there, in the same neighbourhood, there’s a group of homes that aren’t connected to the sewer system and have no running water. This is a neighbourhood that’s 20 minutes from the centre of Buenos Aires.
How can people follow basic preventative measures when their living situation suffers from overcrowding and a lack of basic hygiene? How can you ask someone to wash their hands if they don’t have running water? How can you ask someone to stay at home when they live with 35 people sharing five rooms and two bathrooms?
What risks do children and young people from low-income neighbourhoods face during this pandemic?
The main issue they face in the context of the pandemic is access to food. The majority of children from low-income neighbourhoods – that’s one out of every two children – are able to eat thanks to the adults who work in the informal economy. They live hand to mouth. They don’t have a salary, they have an income that depends on them going out to work. If they go out they have an income, and if they don’t go out they don’t have an income.
The national government has created policies to alleviate this situation by distributing packages of basic goods and financial support. But from what we can see in the neighbourhoods, it’s not enough. And if it weren’t for the solid network of organisations, NGOs, local movements and community workers that manage the delivery of food and basic goods, the situation would be exponentially worse.Print