The capital of the Coclé province in central Panama, Penonomé has an urban population of 22,000 inhabitants – over 88,000 in the metropolitan area.
Located along the southern Pacific coast, Coclé is primarily an agricultural area where most families make a living by farming sugar cane, coffee, tomatoes and corn.
Since 1991, SOS Children’s Villages has been supporting children, young people and families and advocating for their rights in Penonomé.
Panama’s agricultural sector is plagued by child labour. 5% of the country’s children between 5 and 14 years old are forced to work – 69% of them in the agricultural sector specifically.
In rural areas such as Coclé, a lot of children work in farming to contribute to the family income. For example, they work in a sugar refinery during the harvest or help with raising livestock. These perilous tasks endanger the children’s healthy physical and psychological development. They interfere with their education, too, and jeopardize their chances later in life.
26% of Panama’s women aged 20 to 24 were married or in union before they turned 18.
Marriage before the age of 18 is a fundamental violation of human rights, and child marriage often compromises a girl’s development – whether it results in early pregnancy, social isolation, or interrupts her schooling.
Only 51% of married women in the country are estimated to use a contraception method, and providing for their children can be especially difficult for mothers without qualifications or prospects.