JIS News

The Children’s Advocate, Mary Clarke, had called for speedy interventions to address the plight of excluded and invisible children.
Mrs. Clarke who was speaking at the launch of the United Nations Children’s Fund’s (UNICEF) 2006 Situation Analysis on Excluded Children in Jamaica on March 15 at the St. Andrew Settlement Community Centre in Majesty Gardens, said that far too many of the nation’s children fell into the category of excluded and invisible being either “vulnerable, on the edge of poverty, on the streets and abused and affected by violence”.
She said that the situation was further exacerbated when public services were made inaccessible to children and especially those with HIV/AIDS, because of stigma and discrimination.
According to Mrs. Clarke, exclusion produced a range of negative circumstances with children being unable, in later years, to relate to others in a socially productive way and find it difficult to function within society. Some may develop antisocial behaviour patterns, resort to violence, and seek to inflict on others, the pain they experienced, while demonstrating a callous regard for people.
“We have to recognize the domino effect of exclusion and the vicious cycle it creates,” Mrs. Clarke stated.
“Lack of access to good quality education, for example, often leads to unemployment and poverty. Poorer households tend to have a larger number of children, which may contribute to inadequate parenting, abuse and poverty and the cycle continues,” she noted further.
Mrs. Clarke said that the factors, which contribute to exclusion such as poor living standards and conditions, lack of access to quality early year provisions, poor educational access and achievement, poor health, disabilities, poverty, inadequate provisions for safety and protection, lack of access to justice and discrimination, would have to be dealt with decisively.
The Children’s Advocate further called for public/private sector and international partnerships, the elimination of political, socio-economic and religious barriers, and the provision of adequate resources to address the issues.
She pointed out, that with the country’s ratification of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, “the survival, development and protection of children are no longer matters of charitable concern but of moral and legal obligation”.
“Excluded” children are those who are deprived of their rights and are unable to access essential goods and services. “Invisible”, means children who are not recognized, not identified and there is no preparation of resources for them.
According to the UNICEF report, 16,240 Jamaican children, aged five to 17 years, were involved in economic activities in 2004. The data also shows that the working child is most likely to be a male teenager, between age 15 and 17, who works an average 22 hours weekly. In addition, it estimated the number of children living or working on the streets to be approximately 2,000.
As Children’s Advocate, Mrs. Clarke is responsible for investigating and representing cases of violation of children’s rights and various forms of crimes and abuses against the nation’s children.
She was appointed January 1, 2006 to effectively implement the Child Care and Protection Act (2004).