In Ecuador, 44 per cent of children between the ages of five and 17 say they have experienced some form of violence at home. Thirty per cent of children say they have experienced violence at school and three out of 10 children have been victims of sex crimes, according to UNICEF.
Socio-cultural norms support violence as an acceptable form of discipline at home, and corporal punishment is still used at school.
Other children experience violence on the streets or in their workplace. According to government figures, over 300,000 Ecuadorian children and adolescents were working in 2013, which translates to 8.6 per cent of the population of children aged between five and 17.
According to the United Nations, children in Ecuador are engaged in some of the worst forms of child labour, including forced domestic work and commercial sex.
The violence experienced by children leaves them with physical and emotional scars that require social and psychological intervention for their life chances to improve.
Fundación Junto Con Los Niños (JUCONI) was established in 1995 and focuses on children and young people living with extreme violence. The organisation was set up to address the high number of street children in the port city of Guayaquil but has since broadened its reach to other children whose experience of violence at home has increased their social exclusion.
It has developed a holistic approach, working with children, their families, schools and communities to address the root causes of violence and find ways to end the repeated cycles of abuse and ensure a different and better future for children’s lives.
The organisation gives personalised attention to children, incorporating the different actors in children’s lives such as teachers, families and carers. The organisation helps children recover from their violent experiences through developing their emotional, cognitive and social skills. The work with the child is not limited to a specific timeframe to tackle this issue but is dependent on the change that occurs and the needs of the child.
JUCONI, which also runs a capacity building and training centre for those working on the ground, has directly impacted 331 children in 2015.
Photo: Santiago Arcos Vientmilla