Equidad para la Infancia América Latina: ‘Poverty and Inequality’

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Although some data in recent years shows reducing rates of poverty, there are two major unresolved issues surrounding inequality and equity in the Latin America region. Firstly, it is necessary to focus on achieving greater equity for all, taking into account societal inclusions faced by new generations. With current development models, certain populations are experiencing exclusion, such some fifteen ethnic groups in Argentina where poverty is deep among indigenous peoples and the recent economic has led to an increase in poverty, especially in provinces in the north where estimates of income poverty ranged from around 20% [1] officially to over 40% [2] in private estimates.

At different moments of childhood, the experience of poverty and inequality varies. Groups of children and adolescents face differing consequences on their life paths during these moments, such as those who live in large urban areas of Argentina where 3 out of 10 children under the age of 18 live in homes with major health and habitat condition issues (no access to running water or lack of sewage infrastructure, overcrowding conditions, in the vicinity of landfills or polluting factories) [3]. These conditions result from the misappropriation of material resources by a limited few through socio-cultural strategies that label and treat groups of poor as “different” from the rest of society. Such problems of social inequality and environmental quality of life prove to be very significant and regressive especially for adolescent girls [3].

Equidad para la Infancia advocates a reframing of human rights discussions to include the needs of children and adolescents who are most vulnerable and affected by poverty. Equidad aims to achieve equity for children. Its approach to resolving inequity in Latin America reflects ensuring all-inclusive rights in childhood and adolescence. For example, we observe patterns in children of indigenous and African descent, and who, due to their ethnicity, are highly disadvantaged and denied basic human rights [4]. This is expressed in high rates of morbidity and mortality, high education dropout and failure rates, and an exponentially higher prevelance of poverty and destitution. We also observe that adolescent girls in rural areas and both female and male adolescents from poor urban areas are more vulnerable to acts of sexual violence and criminality.

Following Lopez [5], the notion of fairness can be defined as a strategy to search for equality based on recognition of social differences. As noted through by Fitoussi and Rosanvallon (1996), equity and equality should not be competing concepts but rather work together, as equity can be utilized as a a strategy for achieving equality. Equity seeks equality; and equality in itself requires policies of equity.

Poverty and inequality are reproduced in different ways. According to Saraví, this is illustrated in the biographies of young people living in material poverty who experience an accumulated cycle of disadvantages. The dire living conditions in slums is exacerbated by a very weak to limited state infrastructure (housing, health, education, recreation, etc.) [6]. In addition, other material difficulties that are due to a lack of work opportunity lead to an increasingly difficult and inescapable situation of poverty.

Academic studies about children [7] and those civil society organizations (CSOs) that are working toward fulfilling equitable child rights are increasingly concerned with inequality and material deprivation among children and adolescents. The current social policy debate about children addresses the scope and viability of equality as a principle, given the Convention of the Rights of the Child (CRC) and its direct impact on children in the context of severe conditions of inequality in Latin America [8].

Some social policies are too focused, including those that are target interventions, which automatically exclude vulnerable groups due to a limited and partial measure that misses some issues underlying inequity. Moreover, recent income transfer programs consider the livelihood of children more broadly and contemplate the overall situation of families by seeking to achieve integrated health care and education. Beyond these activities, however, some programs still fail to acknowledge expressions of inequality such as gender discrimination [9]. For example, the high incidence of mothers and birthrates in conjunction with a lack of resources by the state providing skilled childcare space further exacerbates conditions of poverty and inequality for children.

Redefining the human rights approach from a perspective of achieving equity involves rethinking the definitions of poverty and its resulting problems, overcoming a traditional focus on quantifiable issues of income and being poor and instead considering relations maintained in poverty and the related structure of perpetuated inequality. The debate is well underway about the best ways to address society’s issues of childhood poverty and inequality. It emphasizes coordinated efforts among various state sectors, academia and CSOs [10]. Unfortunately, the challenges of eliminating inequality and achieving equity in Latin America remain when thinking about living conditions for children and the general population.


[1] http://www.indec.gov.ar/principal.asp?id_tema=534

[2] http://www.iader.org.ar/?x=pobreza_pais

[3] http://www.equidadparalainfancia.org/alberto-minujin-como-representante-de-equidad-para-la-infancia-participo-de-la-presentacion-del-cuarto-informe-del-barometro-de-la-deuda-social-de-la-infancia-422/index.html

[4] Visibilidad estadística. Datos sobre población afrodescendiente en censos y encuestas de hogares de América Latina, UNDP 2010.

[5] http://www.equidadparalainfancia.org/las-nuevas-leyes-de-educacion-en-america-latina,-una-lectura-a-la-luz-del-panorama-social-y-educativo-en-la-region-735/index.html

[6] http://www.equidadparalainfancia.org/la-otra-inclusion-social-651/index.html

[7] http://www.equidadparalainfancia.org/los-derechos-y-las-politicas-para-la-infancia-en-la-formacion-de-posgrado-de-america-latina-698/index.html

[8] http://www.equidadparalainfancia.org/poblacion-infantil-y-juvenil-derechos-humanos-pobreza-y-desigualdades-610/index.html

[9] http://www.equidadparalainfancia.org/programas-de-transferencias-condicionadas-de-ingresos-quien-penso-en-el-cuidado-la-experiencia-argentina-501/index.html

[10] http://www.equidadparalainfancia.org/opportunities-and-challenges-in-promoting-policy–and-practice-relevant-knowledge-on-child-rights-643/index.html

Saraví, Gonzalo (2006). “Biografías de exclusión: Desventajas y juventud en Argentina”. En Perfiles Latinoamericanos 28. Julio Diciembre 2006

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Equity for Children participated in the series of talks organized by MUNA-UNICEF Argentina to promote the exchange of knowledge and experiences among municipalities on various topics related to the rights of children and adolescents.

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