More than 100 grassroots and philanthropic leaders meet at US-Mexico border to support migrant children’s rights

Tijuana hosts 2020’s first transnational conference to discuss the region’s migration crisis and its impact on youth.

TIJUANA, Mexico, Feb. 20, 2020 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- Standing in solidarity with the migrant and refugee community, over 75 civil society organizations convened in Tijuana, Mexico today to participate in “Gender, Childhood, and Youth on the Move.” This three-day, transnational conference brings grassroots and philanthropic leaders together across borders to advocate for the rights of migrant children and youth.

Thousands of migrants have died along the US-Mexico border over the past five years, including dozens of children, according to conservative estimates by the UN Migration Agency. Many thousands more have experienced the trauma of violence, detention, and deportation along their journey, as well as discrimination and sexual abuse in custody.

“Gender, Childhood, and Youth on the Move” provides a unique opportunity for civil society to design strategies to strengthen justice with and for migrant children, including some of the most invisible and vulnerable: girls and young women, unaccompanied children, Afro-descendent children, and children who identify as LGBTQI.

“It’s important for young people from our region to come together now, and have these conversations about the human rights abuses that affect our communities. We are coming together here, in Tijuana, to show the reality of the border, to stand up against racist policies, and to hold our governments accountable. We are here to build community and keep fighting together,” said Paulina Olvera Cáñez, Director of Espacio Migrante, the local shelter and community center in Tijuana hosting the conference.

Grassroots leaders and youth activists from Central America, Mexico, and the United States have gathered in the city with the world’s busiest border crossing to call for increased protection and justice for young people. Participants bring together diverse expertise in shelter, legal services, psychosocial support, and community advocacy across migratory points of origin, transit, destination, and return.

“Stories like the ones we are hearing during this event demonstrate the humanitarian crisis we are experiencing, and the urgency with which Fondo Semillas continues to support organizations that are defending the human rights of thousands of girls and women, forced to flee their places of origin because of violence and poverty,” said Tania Turner, Executive Director of Fondo Semillas, the only women’s fund in Mexico.

“We stand with our partners to call upon regional governments to recognize that children, especially girls, migrate to escape social inequality, gender-based violence, and institutional abandonment. We must do more not only to address the reasons why children are forced to leave their homes, but also to secure their safe transit and family reunification when they must leave,” said Miriam Alejandra Camas, Program Manager of the Central American Women’s Fund, based in Nicaragua.

“Government policies that separate children from families and cause young people to be detained indefinitely and inhumanely further traumatize young people already fleeing violence in search of safety. We are proud to support and convene courageous community leaders fighting for children and families fleeing violence, poverty, and injustice. We have a responsibility to stand up for children’s rights and to protect all children from adversity and trauma,” said John Hecklinger, President and CEO of Global Fund for Children, based in Washington, DC.

“Gender, Childhood, and Youth on the Move” is co-hosted by Global Fund for Children, Fondo Semillas, the Central American Women's Fund, the Seattle International Foundation, and the International Community Foundation.

“It is essential that any approach to migration has a gender and youth perspective as a cross-cutting theme; otherwise, we will repeat the discrimination and exclusion that motivated migration in the first place. Spaces such as this meeting also help generate reflection and collaboration between organized civil society and donors in order to listen to and respond to the needs of migrants, from their contexts,” said Perla Vázquez, Program Director of the CAMY Fund, Seattle International Foundation.

“Given our location in the San Diego-Tijuana region, ICF has witnessed the profound impact that immigration policies and geo-political factors have had on our border community over the past 30 years. Often, these decisions and events occur thousands of miles away, yet the negative physical, financial, and emotional impact on our neighbors, colleagues, and children and youth are long-lasting. However, these events have also demonstrated the incredible agility and dynamism of our border community and local leaders – many of whom were migrants to the region themselves. Through grants and capacity-building efforts, ICF seeks to uplift the dynamic, vibrant people and initiatives that make our border community so unique and rich. We are so grateful to our co-hosts for their presence and investments here,” said Anne McEnany, President & CEO of the International Community Foundation, based in San Diego.