Cristina Bazan | Guayaquil – November 2, 2022
Being a girl and having to migrate to another country alone or accompanied entails a number of physical health risks, but also on mental health which is rarely talked about.
Experiences largely depend on the type of migration, whether the border is crossed on foot, by bus or plane, and whether the entry was regular or irregular, but Fiorela Alva, Nahioba González and Gabriela Vega, three South American migrants who moved to other countries when they were girls or adolescents, agree that it is important to consider the impact that a life change of this magnitude can have on girlsand they seek greater involvement in the emotional adjustment of minors.
“I think it’s important talk to a girl, no matter how old she is, but talk about what’s going to happen, make them feel safetell them: ‘Wherever you are, wherever you go, you will be safe because I am with you and we will go on this journey together, we will be together on this journey into the unknown,’ says Vega, who at the age of seven had to leave his native Bolivia to a small town in Spain to reunite with his mother.
In fact, she herself went through a kind of “mourning” for many years, ever since he could not understand what was happening in his life and this caused him to feel that he did not belong to the place where he lived.
Plan International points out that 13% of migrant girls surveyed for a recent report present images of sadness, generated mainly by the fragmentation of their family group, the socioeconomic conditions they face, restrictions on the right to education in the countries they arrive at, and the state of vulnerability to different forms of violence.
For her part, Fiorela Alva says that, although she has not experienced any kind of harassment, it is important for parents to provide psychological support to their daughters or let them understand the situation in which they will liveespecially if they arrive in a country where the language is different.
“I think that girls also have a risk the mental effect of living your whole life in another place and suddenly they live with another person in another place. You have to go to school, and in some, unfortunately, there is mistreatment of migrants,” says Alva, who migrated to Italy from Peru at the age of 14.
Three young women told their stories in the virtual conversation “How Latino Girls Live”, which he organized International Organization for Migration (IOM) as part of the celebration of the International Day of the Girl Child.
Emotional impact on the migrant girl
Nahiobe González says that she left her native Venezuela with her mother when she was eight years old and that although they entered by air they lived through many years of uncertainty before obtaining immigration status which would enable them to access formal jobs and studies.
“I am an only child, and my mother is a single mother, so we felt very lonely. We had to create a support network from other Latino migrants, people who today are like my aunts, women who came from Colombia, from Cuba, from Venezuela and who found their family in this new country”, she recalls. He also says that he touched «itry twice as hard” to survive as a child in a new country.
It also ensures used the study as a refuge to deal with uncertainty caused by the migration and economic problems they had. But due to the faster adaptation than her mother to the culture and language, she put an additional burden on her shoulders. “I started calling the telephone company, translating documents for them. I know she did it unconsciously, but I think that childhood should be protected.”
González is also aware that, despite all the hardships he experienced, his migration was completely different. where thousands of Venezuelan girls now live. “ANDright now, Venezuelans are going through the Darién (a jungle area shared by Panama and Colombia), walking to Chile or the United States, and it’s obviously an incredibly risky way to migrate, especially for women and girls.
According to UNICEF, migrant families with children crossing the Darién jungle are particularly exposed to violence, including sexual abuse, trafficking and extortion by criminal groups. While Plan International assures that the Venezuelans who migrated by land to Peru, Colombia and Ecuador report high exposure to multiple forms of sexual violenceespecially the commercial sexual exploitation of children.
Violence to which girls are exposed
More and more girls and boys from Latin America they travel alone to reunite with their relatives in countries like the United States.
According to Bulletin of migration statistics of the National Migration Institute from Mexico, between January and September 2021, the flow of foreign children and adolescents traveling alone was 9,585especially from Guatemala (4815), Honduras (3480), El Salvador (1033) and, to a lesser extent, from countries such as Haiti, Peru and Ecuador (257).
“In this transit, many girls and adolescents are unaccompanied they are especially exposed to many dangersjust as they are subjected to psychological violence and inhumane treatment,” says Plan International.
In order to try to generate economic resources as they continue their journey to the United States, they are offered irregular contracting of household services. They are paid about $20 a month for these jobs, and in many cases they work more than 12 hours a day. “Others do not receive payment under the pretext of having a roof over their heads, and repeatedly live under the threat of being accused in immigration, if they do not meet the conditions,” explains the agency.
In one of its latest reports, Save the Children tells the story of a minor who fled the violence of San Pedro Sula, Honduras, one of the most violent places in the world. His dream was to reunite with his sister, also a minor, who had emigrated to Mexico.
“She emigrated alone, she went to Mexico from Guatemala. Arriving there, he met his sister at Tapachula. Happy to start a new life, he started looking for a room to settle down. He arranged a visit to hire one. When she arrived, several men surrounded her and raped her.. He turned himself in to the police and ended up in a juvenile center,” the organization says.
IF they manage to cross the borders and reach their destination, the girls face various fears that which identify the streets as unsafe places. Human rights organizations concerned with the rights of girls are calling on governments around the world to do more to ensure their physical and emotional safety.