Children of Ecuador
Realizing Children’s Rights in Ecuador
While the situation of children in Ecuador has greatly improved these past few years, there is nevertheless work to do, notably in education, health care, gender equality and general living conditions for children.
According to statistics from 2014, children and adolescents make up 37% of the population of Ecuador. It must also be known that Ecuador is a multi-ethnic country, where 9% of the children are indigenous, 8% are Afro-Ecuadorian, 7% are Montubio and 76% are mestizo.
The absence of policies intended for school-aged children and government programs aiming to protect teenagers are among the problems that must be resolved first in order to improve the situation.
Realization of Children’s Rights Index : 7.64 / 10
Population: 16,3 million
Life expectancy: 76,5 years
Main problems faced by children in Ecuador:
Poverty considerably limits children’s ability to flourish, in particular through education, housing and health.
Chronic malnutrition is one of the biggest problems authorities are now confronting. In fact, the numbers remain alarming despite efforts taken to reduce poverty and programs with the aim of improving the levels of instruction and hygiene for mothers.
There are regions, in particular rural areas, where over 50% of the children and adolescents live in poor households, without access to potable water, sanitation or health care facilities. Around 35% of Ecuadorians living in rural areas live in overcrowded houses.
22% of girls are married before the age of 18. However, this practice is completely legal, as the law allows marriage for girls over 12 years old, and boys over 14.
Child marriage is, however, a violation of children’s rights, in particular for girls: they don’t have an opportunity to enjoy their childhood, no more than they have the maturity to sufficiently understand and accept such a commitment.
In the past few years, there has been an increase in the number of mothers giving birth between the ages of 15 and 19 years old. These teenagers fall victim to sociocultural clichés, given that their role in society is limited to reproduction and domestic chores.
On the other hand, Ecuador also has a high percentage of girls pregnant between the ages of 10 and 14. This is explained by the custom of families entrusting their girls to richer families or people, without any agreement or negotiations to ensure food and housing security.
Even though the latest reports indicate a big investment on the government’s part, and show an improvement in health care coverage and public health, the situation of children and adolescents still leaves something to be desired.
Prenatal infections are the leading cause of infant mortality. The number of children under 5 who die remains high, mainly as a result of poor medical treatment or poorly defined causes (around 16%).
This malnutrition problem also brings about the issue of obesity. Nearly 9% of preschool children, 30% of school-aged children and 26% of teenagers are overweight.
Around 97% of children between 5 and 17 years old go to school, which represents big progress in the fight against not only illiteracy, but also child labor. The country also intends to reduce the percentage of racial exclusion from access to education.
School drop outs remain an issue to be resolved. Studies show that the two most vulnerable groups are pregnant teenagers and indigenous populations, which have the lowest completion rate in their secondary studies.
With regards to bullying and violence at school, it must be noted that almost a third of children and teenagers suffer violent treatment or disciplinary punishments. That represents a 10-point increase since 2005. This percentage rises alarmingly among mixed-race and indigenous children, of whom around 42% suffer this kind of violence.
In 2004, 14% of children between ages 5 and 17 years old worked and did not go to school, or even did neither, and were victims of a hidden form of slavery in domestic work. This percentage has now fallen to 8%.
However, the numbers remain high when looking at child labor done by children under the age of 11. In rural areas, 15.5% of girls work at least 14 hours per week doing housework, whereas in urban areas the number drops to 4.3%. Among indigenous populations, the percentage jumps to 29%.
One of the most dangerous jobs involving children is work on banana plantations, where they are exposed to toxic chemicals without any protective gear.
The persistence of certain social norms, for example the acceptance of corporal punishment as a form of discipline, contributes to the violence and represents an obstacle for the construction of a protective environment that favors the development of children and adolescents.
The new constitution of Ecuador prohibits all forms of violence towards children. However, it has not expressly banned corporal punishment at home, in school, or in detention facilities.
Because of this, abuse, firmly anchored in popular traditions, remains very widely practiced.
Regarding violence towards women, 7 out of 10 have been victims of it at some point in their life.
In this country, the primary causes of avoidable death among teenagers are car accidents, suicide and homicide.
In Ecuador child trafficking is a particularly worrying and widespread phenomenon. Although the government is making efforts to eliminate this illegal practice, a great number of children continue to become caught up in networks that exploit them for commercial or sexual gain. Prostitution, pornography, begging and domestic servitude are just some examples of what children are forced into in Ecuador. Some parents go as far as selling their children to the traffickers which allows this inhumane and illegal practice to thrive.
The constitution now recognizes the multi-ethnic and multicultural nature of the country, even if children born to indigenous or afro-Ecuadorian parents continue to face discrimination in their own country.
The stark difference among indigenous children is a problem that sticks out. For example, 6 out of 10 children who live in indigenous communities are not sufficiently developed for their age and suffer from malnutrition.
The poverty rate among indigenous children is 51.1%, and declines according to ethnic origin:
44.2% for Montubio children, 35.9% for Afro-Ecuadorian children, 14.3% for other children.
In Ecuador, 40.7% of the children and adolescents live in poverty and 15.1% in extreme, multidimensional poverty, which places the country among the highest averages, taking into account ethnic differences in South America.
Nearly 15% of births are not officially registered with the government. In recent years this figure has fallen significantly thanks to awareness raising campaigns about the dangers of non-declaration. Nevertheless, the percentage is still a cause for concern.
In 2005, 15% of infants and children under 5 were unrecorded at birth. This phenomenon leads to big difficulties, as these children will be considered invisible in the eyes of society and cannot, subsequently exercise their rights.
The country, in order to resolve the issue, has created agencies to register children in maternity wards and other health care centers, which has led to a considerable rise in official registrations.