Cartagena, a city in the north of Colombia, on Thursday signed an agreement aimed at strengthening the fight against child exploitation.
The signing was organized by the Tourism Corporation Cartagena de Indias, the Renacer Foundation and UNICEF, along with the tourism associations : COTELCO, Asotelca, Fenalco Ashoget, Asotprescnna, ICBF, ECPAT Colombia and the Mayor of Cartagena.
In an interview with newspaper Semana, Luz Stella Cardenas, founder and director of Fundación Renacer, an organisation which runs the program “I am the wall” aimed at the eradication of the sexual exploitation of children, said the problem is one faced by Colombia as a whole.
“The problem is not only in Cartagena, it is all over the country,” said Cardenas. “Colombia has become a sexual destination in Latin America.”
“We are identified as a country of conflict which creates a sense of vulnerability and this attracts sex tourists,” added Cardenas. “In addition, there is a belief that Latinos offer our children to this type of practice.”
Cardenas emphasized the need to raise awareness of the problem in order to create a safe environment for children.
“We mean to create in society a process of visibility, awareness and prevention,” said Cardenas.
“We create routes for employees of the hotels to recognize any practices of sexual exploitation, so they do not let it into their workplace,” he added.
Since the end of 2010, Cardenas claims that his program “I am the wall” has helped treat 239 victims, 90 of which were from neglectful families with a high risk of abuse.
“In addition a group of 87 children have been trained as protective agents,” explained Cardenas. “They meet, create action plans and talk to the other children.”