“If you keep quiet, you’re an accomplice”

Twenty-five-year-old Tania Aracelly Barberena Avendaño was studying tourism in the Nicaraguan city of León when the Nicaraguan Tourism Institute (INTUR) selected her as a volunteer for the Prevention of the Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children and Adolescents in the Tourism and Travel Sector, a program that receives technical and financial support from the United Nations Children’s Fund. Tania has felt like a kind of private investigator ever since.
“When I walk into a bar or restaurant now, I’m checking out who’s around me and what’s going on” she explains, alongside fellow promoters Claudia Cáceres and Federico Gallo. They have all come to the Tourism Institute’s offices in León, a colonial city 91 km north-west of the country’s capital city, Managua, to tell us about their experiences as promoters working to prevent commercial sexual exploitation and trafficking in tourist sites, restaurants and hotels. “If you keep quiet,” the three state firmly, “then you become an accomplice.”

Claudia María Cáceres Ortiz, Federico Orontes Gallo Ramsey y Tania Aracelly Barberena Avendaño, promotores del Programa para prevenir la Explotación Sexual Comercial de Niños, Niñas y Adolescentes” (ESCNNA) en coordinación con el INTUR y universidades entre 2009 y 2010. (UNICEF/Nicaragua-2012/M.G. Terán)

Claudia María Cáceres Ortiz, Federico Orontes Gallo Ramsey and Tania Aracelly Barberena Avendaño, were promoters in the Programm to prevent the Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children and Adolescents” (ESCNNA) in coordination with INTUR and couple of Universities betwen 2009 and 2010. (UNICEF/Nicaragua-2012/M.G. Terán)

“At the beginning, I told myself this can’t be happening here, but when we went out for the first time to visit the tourist sites we realized that it was,” says Tania.
“I didn’t know about this problem before I was a promoter, but now I know about the issue,” Federico tells us. “We received training on laws and about the Code of Conduct that the owners of tourist sites, restaurants and hotels have to respect, which obliges them to protect children and adolescents so that they aren’t subjected to commercial sexual exploitation and human trafficking.” In this way, businesspeople also become agents for the prevention of this problem. In addition to signing the Code of Conduct, they also have to put signs up outside that warn their clientele and suppliers that they oppose the trafficking and commercial sexual exploitation of children and adolescents.
Back in 2009, the current INTUR delegate for the department of León, Teresa Ramírez, was an INTUR inspector who was responsible for training as promoters 30 third-year tourism students from the National Autonomous University of Nicaragua and the University of Commercial Sciences. “The best teams were from the city of León,” she says. “And in recognition of that they sent us to promote the project in the city of Puerto Cabezas.”
“It’s not just signing the Code of Conduct,” explains Ramírez. “The businesspeople and the promoters work in a coordinated way.” She also mentions how in the beach town of Poneloya, the community took on the program to such an extent that they got organized along with INTUR to collect funds for a community centre where adolescents that produce handicrafts could do so in a safe environment. Two years later, they have already obtained a plot of land on which to build the centre. “It’s all based on the sensitization done by the programme and the community visits,” the INTUR delegate tells us.
“Sometimes we work on holidays. During Easter Week, for example, we visit the beaches and talk with people and businesspeople” says 23-year-old Claudia Cáceres. She explains that adolescents are more susceptible and at greater risk during these key periods with a greater flow of tourism.
There is also a Special Protection Commission in León that includes representatives from different organizations and institutions involved in this issue, including the Ministry of Health, the Ministry of Education, and the Ministry of the Family, Children and Adolescents; the judicial branch; the National Police, through its Police Station for Women, Children and Adolescents; the León Mayor’s Office; SOS Children’s Villages; the Mary Barreda Association; and the Association of Journalists.
The alliance with journalists helps highlight the work of both the commission and the program, including a weekly slot on a local radio station. Each representative on the Special Protection Commission uses the radio programme to talk about the actions they have been carrying out in relation to the prevention of human trafficking and commercial sexual exploitation.

En este Boletín Especial Noticias de la Niñez y Adolescencia: Visita de Jyrki Linnankivi a Nicaragua:


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