Yesterday while doing the outreach at the outdoors market I was invited to participate in a NNATS (Niños, Niñas y Adolescentes Trabajadores) march in pro of the new Bolivian constitution currently being pushed for full aceptance in the country. The children and their
sponsors are in support of it especially because of its strong language in protecting the rights of child workers. I have been told that at least 35% of the income of families with child workers actually come from the children themselves. A lot of parents must encourage their children to work.
I met the group at about 9AM in a plaza close to where I am staying. The organizers of the event handed out shirts. On the front of the shirt it says Niñ@s Adolescentes Trabajadores with three Bolivian flag colored paint strokes down the side. The back of the shirt says, “A New Bolivia.” I was handed a shirt as well and put it on. I figured that this is what participant observation is all about! Prior to taking off, I asked a few of the boys that were marching about their motivation for doing so. One said “I don’t know” while another said they were marching to defend the rights of children to work.
We started the march at about 9:45 and had close to 35 children and 5 adults. The march went for about 5 kms down through the main streets of Cochabamba. We ended up in a park with a soccer field and played for several hours. I once again panted up and down the field with no goals to write home about, but the kids had fun. After playing some futbol we returned to the main plaza in the park and participated in some art shows etc that were set up for the kids. My conclusions are not as clear as they were when I set out this morning. I set out thinking this would be a good example of child protagonism in action and while I think I did in fact witness children actively calling for political change in defense of just work, some of the children seemed to be involved simply because a few adults asked them to. Were they manipulated into going? I don’t think so. But obviously some were more conscientious about their participation then others. Is there a place for children in the political aren? Of course. Children should be educated about the issues at stake and encouraged to make their own decisions as to what and who they will support. Children deserve citizenship just as much as adults do.