Mery* never imagined that at the age of 11 her daughter's life would be at risk due to a pregnancy. For three months a neighbor abused the girl. Mery said that she only realized the situation when the minor suffered a medical emergency, her little body was not yet ready to carry a baby.
The family was shocked. Merý thought that her three children were safe at home, even though there was no responsible adult to care for them. While she was seeking income as a mother head of the household, said abuser took the opportunity to deceive the minor, who was left with sequelae on her body after the premature pregnancy she suffered.
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"I have always given everything of myself to help my children get ahead and give them the best (...) It was something terrible when I found out about the abuse, I never neglected my children," said Mery firmly, who is currently a reference and representative of sex workers in Bucaramanga, a job she dedicated herself to for more than thirteen years.
He assured that he always kept the three minors away from the world of prostitution. He warns that this type of abuse is very frequent in the children of sex workers, because they do not have reliable support networks or the help of family members.
Authorities such as the Bucaramanga Ombudsman and the Mayor's Office have registered cases, for example, of infants who stay a whole day in hostels while their mothers carry out activities to generate income. Children are left alone, without proper nutrition and exposed to various risks.
“We have known very sad stories, such as sex workers who have sex in the same room where their son is sleeping. We have also attended to complaints about abuses committed by the same relatives, such as uncles who are left in the care of minors," sources from the Public Ministry indicated.
The 'Owl House' is born
Between 2016 and 2017, a campaign was launched by Fátima Bacca, former leader of sex workers in the Santander capital and who died in 2020, to create the 'Casa Búho', a refuge where women engaged in prostitution could leave their children in safe and reliable care while they went about their business.
The previous Municipal Administration could not materialize this project, which apparently will be a reality during the current government. Last week the Bucaramanga Mayor's Office awarded a contract for close to $1,558 million to build this kind of nursery (see 'This would be the Owl House').
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“A city like Bucaramanga is in arrears to have a refuge of this type. This is a project that many female heads of household need, just like my mother. The guy who got me pregnant took advantage of the fact that my mom left us at home and came looking for me, to ask me for water. That's how he began to get closer, I was never aware that it could be an abuse," said Mery's daughter, who is currently 22 years old.
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According to the official statistics of the Local Government, every year in the Santander capital about six thousand "live births" are registered and around 10% of the cases are reported in adolescent mothers.
They filed a formal complaint against the man accused of the alleged abuse, who was around 19 years old when these events occurred, according to the two women. The Prosecutor's Office is currently conducting an investigation.
“He got me involved, tricked me into sleeping with me. I never had a clue what was going on, I didn't even know he was a condom. As an adult, he didn't say anything to me either. He went from greeting to touching my hands and then to kissing. It was all hidden from my mom. I was very young. At one point I even felt that I was in love, that's why I decided to have the girl. As soon as he found out I was pregnant, he stopped visiting me, he never showed up again," said Mery's daughter.
This abuse victim suffered harm in her womb. Her daughter is 10 years old now. Like Mery, she also became a spokesperson for sex workers in Bucaramanga. He frequently undertakes campaigns to help the children of those who work in this trade with items such as clothing and food.
This is what the shelter would look like
As reported by the Bucaramanga Mayor's Office, this shelter for minors at risk of abuse will be opened at Carrera 27 # 33-12. The facilities that exist there will be remodeled to adapt a three-story nursery.
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“We will carry out an intervention of a social nature in those boys and girls who do not have support networks, at the moment in which their parents generate income. The fundamental thing is to protect children who are vulnerable to any type of abuse or violence. We detected risk in those people who depend, above all, on night activities, but it will be a kindergarten that will work 24 hours a day," said John Carlos Pabón, Secretary of Social Development of the Local Government.
Spaces for bedrooms, dining rooms, games areas, areas for recreational and educational workshops, among other services that will be provided, will be adapted. As specified, infants between zero and nine years of age will be cared for.
“We will offer educational activities, psychological support, social and cognitive development, and nutritional guidelines for these children. The works must start immediately, the contract has an execution period of five months. In other words, towards the end of 2021 we will already be able to count on this space. The plan is for the 'Owl House' to start operating from 2022," the official reported.
Once the work has been completed, work will begin to equip said building. In total there are about 3,269 square meters.
From the Ministry of Social Development it was announced that “we hope to offer service and space for about 90 children, from different families who work in market places, traffic lights, car washes, sexual activities, among others. A characterization will be carried out to define the beneficiaries.