Equidad para la Infancia: ‘Afro-Descendant Children, Structural Racism and New Settings in Latin America’

Poverty and Inequality

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The living standards of the Afro-descendant populations in Latin America are characterized by poverty and exclusion in social and political affairs. These are determined by ethnic discrimination and structural racism. In this context, the consequences of human rights violations are especially detrimental in the periods of infancy and adolescence, even while recognizing variations among countries.

The multiple deprivations that characterize the life of a large part of the children and adolescents of African descent [1] generate diverse impacts. Four out of every ten children do not have guaranteed access to potable water. In several countries of Latin America, a large number of them reside in housing with unsanitary facilities. Moreover, estimates show that eight out of every ten children of African descent are affected by some type of deprivation in the access to necessary equipment for the implementation of their right to information. [2] In the context of education, beyond the significant developments reached, those children of African descent together with the indigenous populations continue to share the lowest enrollment and graduation rates, the poorest performance levels and the most precarious educational offers. [3]

At the same time, the racist discourse that undermines and denies the knowledge and cultural practices present in every development context of the children (family, school, and community) directly affects their psycho-social development and the processes of identity construction, self-recognition and self-valuation. On the other hand, considering the magnitude of the problems that the children and adolescents of African descent face, it is necessary to consider the other modes of exclusion – of class, generation, gender, and territory – which are linked in singular experiences, potentiating the disadvantages they must face. [4]

However vast the inequities, important socio-cultural and political transformations that have taken place in the last decades have re-sketched this panorama, redefining the position of those of African descent in the social setting and in their relation with the State. The aforementioned developments are a product of the collective action of the social movements, in urban and rural areas, whose claims and struggles were and still are decisive in placing their concerns at the forefront of the public and governmental agenda. These measures are imperative to the advancement of laws, institutions, and policies that promote racial equality. In this sense, the advancements made in normative terms and in agreements to eradicate racism and inequality have been significant. [5]

Given the normative frames (both nationally and internationally) of the protection of rights, joint efforts are necessary to eradicate the persistent racial/ethnic disparities and injustices.

From Equity for Children in Latin America (Equidad para la Infancia), we understand that it is necessary to expand knowledge regarding the situation of Afro-descendant children and adolescents in the region. In the same way, it is also imperative to strengthen participatory mechanisms of decision-making bodies, advocacy, and political participation in general. All of these processes are essential to render effective policies that address the legitimate needs and demands of Afro-descendant children and adolescents.


[1] According to a study that analyzed data available in eight Latin American countries, it is estimated that 17.8% of the population of children and adolescents in the region are Afro-descendants, which is equivalent to 31 million people. Brazil being home to most of them, and followed then by Colombia. http://www.equidadparalainfancia.org/pobreza-infantil-en-pueblos-indigenas-y-afrodescendientes-de-america-latina/

[2] Ibid.

[3] http://www.equidadparalainfancia.org/la-educacion-de-los-pueblos-indigenas-y-afrodescendientes/

[4] Regarding the issue of violence against children and adolescents, this makes itself quite evident. http://www.equidadparalainfancia.org/news/abril2012_1.htm

[5] Specifically, the rights of Afro-Descendants are foreseen in the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination. It specifies that every doctrine of superiority based on racial differentiation is “scientifically false, morally condemnable, socially unjust and dangerous”. In like manner, the Durban Declaration and Program of Action expresses the commitment of Member States in the fight against racial discrimination and for ethnic motives, highlighting the necessity to incorporate special measures to give primary attention to the rights and the situation of the young people afflicted by these practices. http://www.equidadparalainfancia.org/juventud-afrodescendiente-en-america-latina-realidades-diversas-y-derechos-incumplidos/

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