Mexico's peacebuilders: Perla Karina Castro Farías


Undersecretary of Legal Affairs and Human Rights, Government of Campeche
Perla is a lawyer specialized in Justice for Teenagers, with a Master in Human Rights for Vulnerable Groups. She is a candidate for a PhD in Human Rights from the University of Education Abroad from Madrid, Spain. Currently, she is the Undersecretary of Legal Affairs and Human Rights of the Government of Campeche. Her motivation is transforming the state in matters of human rights and public policy for an efficient government.

 

What work have you been doing for the past fifteen years?

When I was Ombudsperson for the Defense of Children, Women and Families, I realized we did not have a legal framework and infrastructure to carry out this role. This motivated me to seek an opportunity in the National Human Rights Commission, and so in 1999 I became General Visitor. In 2009, the current governor of the state of Campeche, Fernando Eutimio Ortega Bernés, invited me to work as Undersecretary of Government to serve the people of Campeche. In this role I have been able to carry what I had seen as missing while in my previous role in the Human Rights Commission, strengthen public service and making it available for vulnerable sectors, especially, guarantee justice for women.

What have you accomplished?

When I reached this position, I realized that agencies depending on the Government Secretariat needed to be strengthened. We transformed public defense into the Institute of Access for Justice, that has as a mission to guarantee and efficient defense not only for victims and indicted, but also for vulnerable groups. Now we are about to complete the digitization of the Official Journal as well as of the Public Registry of Property of Commerce and the State and put it online. Also, the Direction of Public Registry has implemented campaigns to register minors to guarantee their right of identity, with movil units, we reach communities that are often ignored. A very special theme is gender justice, which we have addressed with the creation of the Center for Justice for Women.

What is this and what makes it different?

It is a project that began in 2011. It is a comfortable, dignified space, which concentrates all the comprehensive services offered to women and girls who are victims of rape. By protecting women, we are also protecting their families. Through concrete actions, we must ensure that citizens believe in the government and the judicial system again. In my opinion, procuring justice is more than a trial and a sentence, it is also to create public policy that enable women to have a new life project, violence free.

What challenges have you encountered?

The National Commission on Violence Against Women began promoting the project and Campeche agreed. It was the first state in the country to implement this model. The first challenge was having the institutions that were going to participate believe in the project. Interagency coordination in the beginning was not easy, no one understood why it was necessary that all institutions be in a single space. We also struggled to get funds for the center´s construction and equipment. But we overcame that challenge with the leadership and commitment of the Governor and his wife; today there is a lot of coordination and great sensitivity for the cause. The Justice Center has been recognized nationally and is a model worthy of replication. Perla is a lawyer specialized in Justice for Teenagers, with a Master in Human Rights for Vulnerable Groups. She is a candidate for a PhD in Human Rights from the University of Education Abroad from Madrid, Spain. Currently, she is the Undersecretary of Legal Affairs and Human Rights of the Government of Campeche. Her motivation is transforming the state in matters of human rights and public policy for an efficient government.

What are the characteristics of a good government?

A good government is one that gives priority to serving the people. To serve the people there needs to be serious diagnostics to detect the needs of the population, from there, generate public policies to attend to them. To solve social problems, a government must be open to dialogue, implement legal strategies and administrative practices that function and which allow for the defense of human rights. It takes teamwork with federal, state and local governments, you need to have conviction and a commitment to the people.

Have you enjoyed working in government?

There are very nice aspects and very difficult aspects to it. Over time, I realized that you don’t need to be an autonomous body in order to defend human rights, but that it can be done at the government level. I have tried to instill this in other public servants and make them see when they are defending human rights without realizing it.

Is there sufficient capacity in governments in terms of human rights?

We need more. Since the constitutional reform on human rights in 2011, which was a breakthrough, I have seen how the legal framework has evolved within this area. However, to implement reform successfully, we need to raise awareness among public servants as well as to convey among the people their rights in order for them to begin to demand them. We need to give more training to governments, so that what is captured on paper becomes a reality.

If you had to pick a program which can help overcome the challenges that Mexico faces today, which would it be?

Public safety is a major issue. There is no greater value recognized and desired by Mexicans than to walk the streets safely. One of the guiding principles of the federal government, led by Enrique Peña Nieto, is a crime prevention program that consists of allocating resources to state governments influence the origins of violence. It also includes crime prevention in terms of a situational perspective: changing the physical environment, improving parks, increasing living spaces and motivating people to participate in their neighborhood committees and organize themselves. The projects carried out in this strategy are not decided by the local government, citizens are the ones deciding.

What programs have been done in Campeche with this background?

We have the fortune of being one of the most pacific states. However, it is crucial to implement actions to maintain this level of peace and security. Hence, with this resource we intervened in two high risk communities known as “polygons”, where unfortunately there are high rates of youth suicides. We intervene at schools and with a network of psychologists, we provide them with services. We managed to gain their trust, and now they alert us when a friend is depressed or taking drugs. We have also been able to rehabilitate high-risk communities that once suffered completely from violence, from their parks to their schools. Last summer we launched the Summer Course for Peace, we invited children with the worst behavior at school. At first they were unwilling to participate, but we made them feel special by offering them the best conditions and making them feel worthy to receive the best care. For them it is important to feel loved, to feel that someone cares for them and that they are not bad. I don’t think you need much money. Rather, you need the will to do it. It is necessary to create alliances and have full conviction in public service.

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