Presentation from Tamia Lema – Second Forum


Greetings and Presentation

Tamia Lema, Ecuador
Representative of the Children’s Cabildos in the Communities of Otavalo, Ecuador

Good morning (or afternoon) to all the people who have come from all corners of the world so we can get to know each other, share and learn from one another.

I want to thank the Arigatou Foundation for inviting me to be here and be able to talk to you, the organizers of this meeting and the people of Switzerland who receive us with such love and joy.

My name is Tamia Lema, I’m 12 years old and I come from a small indigenous community which is part of a hard working people, who live in the countryside, sow the land and are artisans, who are called Otavalo in the Ecuadorian Andes.

My mother tongue is Kichwa, but I also speak Spanish.

Today I would have wished to speak to you in English, but I’m still learning, I hope next time I will be able to.

I’m also here because boys and girls of 19 communities where I live, have gathered to talk about our needs and our rights, and I was chosen as president of the children’s Cabildos.

The Cabildos are forms of organization where we meet in an Assembly and there we make the most important decisions among all of us.

The participation of all children and the dialogue amongst ourselves is most important, because that’s how we get to know each other, talk about our problems and look for solutions together.

We have the support of Visión Mundial [World Vision]of Ecuador and of the project Iglesias Unidas por la Niñez y la Adolescencia – IUNA [Churches United for Childhood and Adolescence], who have given us a push, to get to know each other, boys and girls, to talk about our rights and look for mutual support to work for the wellbeing of all children.

My father and some friends who work with them have also helped me prepare this presentation.


I have been asked now to talk about childhood and poverty, so I’m going to share something with you about the situation of children in Latin America and what we boys and girls think about our problems, our rights and our dreams.

To some people, wealth is good and poverty is bad.

I think a person or a people can have a great wealth without having much money while people or countries with a lot of money can be really poor through lack of love, friendship, joy and solidarity.

That’s how wars are born, when the rich want to get richer and want to take the belongings of other people or countries.

Then, the rich take all they can without caring about the rest staying poor. Poverty is a result of some people dominating others.

I ask myself: What good is it for a country to be wealthy, if a great part of its wealth is used to buy weapons and that wealth is not used for the good of all humanity?

Isn’t the greatest wealth of a person their capacity to love and do good?

I read in a magazine that faith in our time is called solidarity.

On the other hand, we believe that the greatest wealth of a country are its people, its children and its culture.

Being different is also one of the greatest riches in the world we live in.

The value of a society is recognized when its children are cared for, loved and protected.

There is also spiritual richness and poverty in all places.

One of the most valuable forms of spiritual richness is the capacity of loving, respecting, communicating, serving and sharing with others.

He who loves his peers and he who loves children with all his heart, is living out a piece of heaven here on earth.

There are even those who leave everything they have to give their life for others.

And others who put everything they have in the service of peace, brotherhood and solidarity among all human beings.

Childhood and Poverty in Latin America

Economic poverty is one of the worst poverties a person, family, community or country can have, because it affects everything in life.

Poverty does not allow a person or a people to live well and satisfy their basic needs.

In this sense, my family, my community and Latin America as a continent have much poverty.

Its also the most unjust continent in the world, because the richest 10 % owns 80 % of the wealth of the country and the rest of us have a pretty hard time.

Luckily, my father and my mother are currently working and we can study, eat pretty well and live the best we can.

But there are many boys and girls in Latin America who are still hungry, cold, are treated wrongly, who see there mothers and fathers suffering from lack of work.

Poverty brings other problems, many children are forced to leave school and start working.

Some families from the countryside go to live in the city and can’t find work and have to beg for charity.

Other families, don’t have money to heal their children when they get sick nor get the toys, nor do they have running water, electricity nor shoes to go to school.

One of the greatest problems regarding poverty is that governments don’t want to be responsible for people’s needs and are only looking for their own benefit, they take other people’s money and when the people try to judge them, they go and live in other countries.

Sadly, my country is one of the most corrupt in the world and for that children and most people aren’t to blame but do live with the consequences.

This also happens in most of our countries in Latin America.

I imagine that partly, one of the reasons must be that the colonizers did the same thing, they came to America and took all the gold and wealth we have.

There are always people and countries who want to take all the wealth they can, without considering the common good.

Now I want to share some information with you on the Situation of Childhood in Latin America , mainly in relation to poverty, education and health:


  • Approximately 6 of every 10 persons in Latin America are poor, meaning that they lack the basic conditions to lead a proper life.
  • Poverty has more effect on children and vulnerable groups, like indigenous children, African-Ecuadorians, disabled people, workers.
  • In farming and indigenous sectors, 8 out of every 10 people are poor.
  • The countries with High Human Development in Latin America are: Argentina, Uruguay, Chile and Costa Rica (in that order).
  • Those with Medium Human Development are: Mexico, Panama, Belize, Venezuela, Colombia, Brazil, Peru, Jamaica, Paraguay, Ecuador, Dominican Republic, Guyana, El Salvador, Bolivia, Nicaragua, Honduras and Guatemala.
  • The country with Low Human Development in the region is Haiti.
  • Cuba has the highest figures for health and education in Latin America, however they do not have high figures for productive development.
  • Many Latin-Americans migrate to United Sates, Canada and Europe, looking for work and a better quality of life, but this brings much suffering, mainly when children are left alone without the love and care of their parents. Other times, poor children are exploited as labor and sexually in other countries.
  • The elimination of poverty must be an important issue in all the work we can do together for children’s rights in all countries, to build a world that’s more just, human and with more solidarity.

Cf. UNICEF, Profile of Infancy in Latin America and the Caribbean, 2002/ UNICEF, Annual Report 2001/ The International Labor Office of United Nations- ILO, 2002/ ILO, Report 2002/ CEPAL, Social View on Latin America, 2001 – 2002 / A Future Without Child Labor, International Labor Organization, July 2002/ ONUSIDA, 2001. in Agenda 2003 Visión Mundial [World Vision].


  • 9 out of 10 children finish elementary school, however, Only 50% of children who start high school complete it.
  • The level of school attendance in Ecuador is 7.3 but in the area I live in it’s 2.7
  • 3 out of 10 children drop out of studies because they have to work for their own maintenance and that of their family.
  • Only half of Latin-American teenagers study high school.
  • 2 out of 10 youths in Ecuador study at the university. In my community last year, there was not a single young persons studying at the university. I do hope to finish university studies and do what I can so many of my fellow children can do so as well.
  • The quality of education in Ecuador is one of the lowest in Latin America and we lack many schools, there aren’t enough teachers and the contents of education aren’t adequate to the needs and realities of children.
  • The IUNA project is backing the drafting of a new law and a National Education Plan for the next 10 years, so this situation could hopefully change.
  • Working for children’s right to education in Ecuador and Latin America would allow us to improve our conditions and quality of life.
  • An ethical education is one that promotes and assures that all children enjoy all our rights.


  • 50 out of every 1000 children, die because of respiratory diseases, lack of vaccines, malnutrition, lack of hygiene, lack of good water and diseases which could be cured with proper medical attention.
  • 4 out of every 10 children have malnutrition.
  • It is calculated that about 2 million boys and girls are living with HIV in Latin America.
  • Only when we have good health, can we learn, play, grow.

Up to now we have said a little about the situation of children in our countries.

I wish there were more medical doctors, more professors than military in my country and in the whole world.

To finish, I would like to give you a big hug from all the boys, girls and teenagers form my community and country and say that:

  • Indigenous peoples and Latin-Americans are a great family that live in peace and harmony with nature and other peoples.
  • We love life and mother earth which shelters us and gives us what we need to live and struggle for a better present and future for all our children.
  • It’s time to change, to laugh, to play, to discover and amaze ourselves with the great and small things in life.
  • We have a right to happiness, which is the source of friendship, freedom and respect.
  • We have a right to love, which is what brings together individuals, peoples and nations.
  • We have a right to be different and live in peace.
  • It’s time to work together and build our dreams and hopes.
  • It is the time for solidarity and tenderness.

Thank you very much and may God be with us today and always.

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