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Building Democracy in Central America

Central America is characterized by having a very young population. Children and adolescents under eighteen years constitute almost half of the population, which amounts to seventeen million people. Despite significant advances in the region with respect to reducing extreme poverty in the past twenty years, 45% of children and youth in Latin America still live in conditions of poverty and 18% suffer from extreme poverty, making them vulnerable and excluded from any participation opportunities.

In response to that situation, Plan International, with support from the European Commission, started implementing a project to support local governments and child rights authorities in responding to the demands of civil society regarding public policy, legislation, and budget allocation for the progressive realization of child rights in the areas of health, education and participation. Karla was one of the young people benefiting from this project. 

Karla’s story

Karla, a teenage girl from El Salvador used to be shy and introverted, she would never dare to speak in public or share her opinion on topics that mattered to her, such as the violence faced by the children at school and in her community. When she started participating in Plan International’s project “Building Democracy in Central America” she became more and more confident, to the point that she ended up being a spokesperson for her whole group.  

I want to report on the situation of children in my community

When Karla talks about her experience, she doesn’t hesitate to say that the project changed her life. “I learned a lot about myself," she says. She now has the ambition to become a reporter. Time has come for Karla to speak out. “I want to report on the situation of children in my community, the way they live and in which environment,” she says with confidence.

From community leader To children's rights advocate

The development of Karla’s confidence throughout the programme was spectacular: she now is a young woman showing strong leadership and commitment in making her voice heard in her community as well as in the local government of her municipality.

In the community where she lives, girls are being discriminated against consistently. With her new skills and ambitions, Karla was able to convince the local government to facilitate dialogues with the community. Furthermore Karla became a member of the local human rights committee, responsible for the promotion and protection of the rights of girls and boys in the municipality: she is now representing the voices of all boys and girls from her community within the highest decision-making body of the municipality.

Today, Karla is empowered and more determined than ever to see children’s rights promoted and respected around her: “I want to become a renowned journalist and promote children’s rights everywhere,” she says determinedly.

Karla has been a great example for other young people in her community, and she has inspired many girls to seek opportunities to participate in their local government and make their voices heard.


For more information about Plan International's work in El Salvador go to

For more information about the work of the European Commission's International Cooperation and Development Directorate General, please click here.