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Protect children from all forms of violence

Protect children from all forms of violence


by Hon. Minister – Mike Browne


Today, November 20, 2006 is commemorated internationally as Universal Children’s Day. 52 years ago, the General Assembly of the United Nations recommended that all countries institute a Universal Children’s Day to be observed as a day of worldwide fraternity and understanding between children. The General Assembly recommended that the day be observed also as a day of activity devoted to promoting the ideals and objectives of the Charter and the welfare of the children of the world. It further suggested to governments that the day be observed on the date and in the way which each considers appropriate. The date November 20th holds additional significance because it is the day on which the Assembly adopted the Declaration of the Rights of the Child in 1959, and the Convention on the Rights of the Child in 1989. {{more}}

St. Vincent and the Grenadines signed and ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child in 1993. According to the Convention, “a child means every human being below the age of 18 years unless, under the Law applicable to the child, majority is attained earlier”. St. Vincent and the Grenadines stands by this definition; in other words, a child in St. Vincent and the Grenadines is someone below the age of 18 years. According to the 2001 census, there are approximately 40,000 persons in the age group 0 – 18 years. This represents almost 40% of our population.

Various countries celebrate Universal Children’s Day at different dates during the year. St. Vincent and the Grenadines is one of the many nations who observe November 20th as Universal Children’s Day. The theme for this year is “Protection from Violence is our Children’s Right – Our Responsibility”. I wish to express profound gratitude to the Child Rights Committee, spearheaded by the Acting Permanent Secretary, Mrs Rosita Snagg, and the Acting Director of Social Development, Mrs Miriam Roache, in the Ministry of National Mobilisation, Social Development and Local Government, for their insight in conceptualizing and formulating the afore-mentioned theme.

As Minister responsible for Family Affairs, I wish to categorically declare that my Ministry, and, by extension, the Unity Labour Party Government, are committed to passionately and relentlessly defending the rights of our nation’s children as embedded in the United Nations Declaration of and Convention on the Rights of the Child. As a signatory to the United Nations Charter on the Rights of the Child, our country must recognize that we all have a huge responsibility to protect our young ones from all forms of crime and violence. I therefore take this special opportunity to challenge all parents, guardians, teachers, childcare service providers and civil society agencies to continue to work harmoniously and collaboratively to ensure that the well-being and welfare of children receive adequate, quantitative and qualitative care and attention. We owe it to our nation’s children to create and sustain the physical, social, mental, emotional and spiritual ambience in which they can feel secure.

A nation that neglects interest in the rights of its children, including those who have a disability whether mild or acute, would sooner or later, suffer from retardation. It cannot be refuted that protection from violence is one of the fundamental rights of our nation’s children. Article 19 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child specifically addresses the unfortunate and unjustifiable act of crime and violence against children. It notes “State Parties shall take all appropriate legislation, administrative, social and educational measures to protect the child from all forms of physical or mental violence, injury or abuse, neglect or negligent treatment, maltreatment or exploitation, including sexual abuse, while in the care of parent(s), legal guardian(s) or any other person who has the care of the child.” The text of the said Article 19 goes on to state, “Such protective measures should, as appropriate, include effective procedures for the establishment of social programmes to provide necessary support for the child, and for those who have the care of the child, as well as for other forms of prevention and for identification, reporting, referral, investigation, treatment and follow-up of instances of child maltreatment described heretofore, and as appropriate, for judicial involvement.”

In 2005 – 2006, the Ministry worked with the OECS in the reform and harmonization of laws relating to children in the areas of: –

1) Adoption

2) Domestic violence

3) Status of children

4) Childcare and protection

This process is expected to be continued in 2007.

In 2005 – 2006, work was also done on: –

a) Development of a Child Abuse Protocol and Reporting Guidelines (CAPRG).

b) Parenting programmes targeting, in particular, fathers.

c) Hosting of the Children Against Poverty Programme, benefiting over 600 children.

d) Provision to children of meals, uniform, transportation, examination-fees, among other things.

e) Development of programme to work with the children who frequent our streets.

f) Provision for the re-entry of our teen mothers into secondary school.

The programmes highlighted above will be continued in 2007 with others such as: –

a) The completion of St. Vincent and the Grenadines 2nd and 3rd report to UN on the status of children.

b) Passing of further legislation to protect our children.

c) The expansion of the Children Against Poverty Programme.

To mark Universal Children’s Day this year, the Child Rights Committee has planned a whole week’s programme of activities, which commenced Saturday 18th and will culminate on Saturday 25th November 2006.

In conclusion, let us consciously keep before us: (1) Our nation’s children are precious but vulnerable gems; (2) the future of our blessed country depends on how much you and I and all of our civilisation shoulder our responsibility to love, build, nurture, care for our children, and to provide and sustain protection from violence which is fundamentally our Children’s Right.

Long live our nation’s children!