Children in Haiti face numerous challenges, particularly in the current context of political unrest. Thousands of Haitian children fall victim to trafficking, prostitution, and HIV/AIDS, and many thousands more have no access to basic education. Children are also used in armed gangs that have been terrorizing Port-au-Prince in recent months.
In a bid to ensure children are not forgotten in Haitian politics, the workshops aim to use the unique role of political leaders as public figures and community motivators to promote children's rights and the condemnation of their involvement in gangs. It is expected that leaders participating in the workshops will inscribe these principles in their party platforms.
"This training is one part of IOM's broad strategy to promote positive alternatives to gang violence, particularly for the youth," says IOM Haiti chief of mission, Maureen Achieng. "We hope that by raising the awareness of political leaders to the issue, they can help spread the message to their constituents and we can keep children out of armed gangs."
The training is being conducted by the Child Protection Unit of the UN Mission for Stabilization in Haiti (MINUSTAH) and UNICEF with cooperation from the Haiti Institute for Social and Political Training. The seminars include members of major political parties and take place over several days in August in the Haitian capital, Port-au-Prince.
IOM is co-sponsoring the workshops as part of its Haiti Transition Initiative programme, funded by USAID's Office of Transition Initiatives. The programme, which began in May 2004, aims to stabilise communities by bridging the gap between the government and the general population by creating dialogue between them and by rehabilitating community infrastructures. A key component of this programme is to provide alternatives to gang violence through employment and community activities.
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