For us Salesians, young people are our main concern, we were born to respond to their requests and challenges. And the reality of our Country makes our task even more necessary and decisive.
In general, society views adolescents and young people with fear, as something dangerous that can harm them. At the same time, we got used to seeing them lying on the street, taking drugs or getting drunk. For a long time, the adolescent was seen as the future of the country and, therefore, was one of the most protected groups in society. Investments have been made in education and formation. Since the 1980s, they have become the most vulnerable sector. There are no more policies for this sector and today we have many young people outside the system, without life plans.
The social figures of young people in our country are frightening: the unemployment rate of men under 30 is 19.8%. In the case of women, it reached 25.2%. While the overall unemployment rate is 13.2%.
According to UNICEF data, the percentage of children, adolescents and young people living in poverty in Peru increased from 26.9% in 2019 to 39.9% in 2020, as a direct consequence of the pandemic. There are more than two million children between the ages of 15 and 24 who neither study nor work. And 21% of young people the statistics consider "destitute".
At the same time, the consumption of socially accepted and illegal drugs is on the rise: national studies show that 59.7% of the population between the ages of 12 and 15 and 87.3% of young people between the ages of 19 and 24 consume alcohol. Also, the results of the National Survey on Drug Use among Students (ENCODE) show that 17.2% of young people in middle and high school have used drugs at some point in their life, 18.6% are males and 15.9% females. There is a lack of strategies and policies for this segment of the population, the most exposed to lack of work and marginalization.
Faced with these numbers and the reality they reflect, we cannot remain inert. That's why our first flag manifests the following fundamental option:
Presence and Defense are the two words that summarize this flag and which are for us a stimulus that leads us to be where we cannot but be, to be faithful to this charism that makes us Samaritans of the young.
Fr Manuel Cayo, SDB
Provincial of Peru