JIS News

Some 170 children between the ages of five and 14 became better acquainted today (August 9) with the rights of the child, and what they can do as minors to protect themselves and ensure that these rights are not abused.A one-hour workshop was conducted at the Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA) on Hope Road by Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Child Development Agency (CDA), Alison Anderson, who engaged the campers in a lively interactive session.
Miss Anderson explained to the children that they all had rights, which should be protected and that these rights had come about as a result of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, which Jamaica signed in 1991. She noted that all children had the right to be protected from violence and injury, harm, and neglect and that adults had a responsibility to ensure that children were protected. She also told the children about the Child Care and Protection Act, which was passed in Parliament last year.
Meanwhile, Public Relations Officer with the CDA, Ingrid Avery informed the youngsters about some of the things they needed to do and know to ensure their rights and to protect themselves, in addition to the protection offered by parents, guardians and the state.
She encouraged them to share problems with parents and to speak with someone they trusted, if they felt uncomfortable or if their rights were being abused by an adult. “No matter who that adult is who does something to you that makes you uncomfortable or afraid, go to someone you trust, whether it be mommy, daddy, an aunt, an uncle, or a teacher,” she told them.
Miss Avery also cautioned the children not to accept rides from strangers, or accept food and gifts from persons without their parents’ approval. She also urged them not to stay out after dark, and to walk in groups as well as to insist that they were never alone at home.
Miss Anderson further stressed the importance of family and sharing information with parents and having a good relationship with them. She also pointed out the importance of the community, including churches, health care and education providers.
She told JIS News that the workshop was one of a number of such forums, which were being held across the island to teach children about their rights and what they could do to protect themselves. At the end of the session, the campers were presented with items of stationery and a publication titled, ‘Protecting Myself’.
In March last year, the House of Representatives approved amendments to the Child Care and Protection Act, enabling Jamaica to fulfill its commitment to ensure that the principles of the Convention on the Rights of the Child were fully incorporated in national legislation.
Jamaica ratified the Convention in May 1991 and a decision was taken to enact legislation to combine and reinforce existing child protection laws with new legislative provisions to protect children from abuse and as such, the Bill seeks to give effect to that decision.
The Bill incorporates the provisions of the Juveniles Act, with modifications, and makes provisions for, among other things: the establishment of the office of Children’s Advocate to act in legal matters on behalf of children; the establishment of a Central Registry for the reporting of abuse of children; the formulation of standard principles to be adhered to in the determination of matters affecting children; and parental and state responsibility for the welfare of children.
Minister of Health John Junor had said that in passing the law, the country would be “taking another giant step in fulfilling its obligations under the Child Rights Convention, but more importantly, we will, among other things, be creating a better society for the healthy growth and development of our children with a full recognition of their rights to education, health and survival, emotional support and protection from abuse and exploitation”. He added that the Bill reinforced the country’s commitment to ensuring the safety and well being of the child and promoting the best interest of the child.
Factors detailed in the legislation include, the safety of the child; the child’s physical and emotional needs and the level of development; the importance of continuity in the child’s care; the quality of the relationship the child has with a parent or other person and the effect of maintaining that relationship; the child’s spiritual views; whether the child is of sufficient age and maturity to be capable of forming his or her own view and if so, those views are to be given due weight in accordance with the age and maturity of the child; and the effect on the child of a delay in making a decision.
In addition, the fines and penalties for breaches of the Act have been substantially increased to discourage the abuse of children.
The CDA is the executing agency with primary responsibility for implementation and working along with the Central Registry and the Children’s Advocate. The Act imposes statutory obligation on the agency to investigate all reports of abuse referred to it by the Central Registry. The amended Act also sets out clear guidelines to direct the Agency’s monitoring and regulation of residential facilities. The CDA was created under the provisions of the Executive Agencies Act and became an Executive Agency in April 2003.