(São Paulo) – WITH just three months to go until the 2014 FIFA World Cup kicks off, children’s charity Plan International is empowering young people in Brazil to say “no” to child exploitation.
While the World Cup is an exciting event, Plan International’s National Director in Brazil, Annette Trompeter, says it can expose vulnerable children to violence and exploitation.
“Unfortunately tourism is often linked with the sexual exploitation to children, due to an increasingly permissive atmosphere and the use of hotels.
“Plan’s goal is to prevent this exploitation by raising awareness about the issue and opening doors to vulnerable children to develop their potential.”
Plan’s Because I am a Girl campaign has found that when children, girls in particular, are at risk of violence, poverty and exploitation, it can have a major impact on their education, with many of them forced to drop out of school. In fact, sexual violence is the second most reported crime against children in Brazil, with most victims aged between 10 and 14.
Through its Tourism and Child Protection project, Plan has been working in Brazil for several years, raising awareness of the issue of child sexual exploitation in some of the most affected areas, such as host city, Recife. Plan also works to prevent exploitation in Tibau do Sul, close to anotherhost city Natal, as well as the north-eastern state of Maranhão.
The child rights organisation also runs a number of programmes aimed at preventing vulnerable children getting drawn into difficult situations.
Plan’s Girls’ Football Project works with girls in the community to enable them to fight for their rights through participation, learning, team work and self-esteem by coming together through sport.
Nineteen-year-old Beatriz is just one young woman who has benefitted from this programme. When Beatriz was 14, she went through a dark patch. “I just wanted to be out on the streets or at parties. Then, I started doing drugs,” she says.
Beatriz did not know where her life was heading, so when she heard about Plan’s programme she saw it as an opportunity to make a change and learn about her rights as a young woman. “Had I continued with that lifestyle, where would I be today?” questions Beatriz, who has now gone on to become a Plan volunteer and role model for other girls.
Another Plan project, Goals for a Better Life, is helping 150 youths age 18 to 22, gain steward jobs during the World Cup, with sixty per cent of these young women, some of whom might otherwise be forced into prostitution to survive.
The training process is now complete and the young people are working at every Sunday game in preparation for the 2014 FIFA World Cup. When the tournament is over, Plan hopes to use the empty Arena das Dunas in Natal as a vocational training centre.
To find out more about Plan’s World Cup initiative, visit childrenbackinthegame.org