Minister of Information, Culture, Youth and Sports, Olivia Grange, is calling on the society to be more proactive in protecting the nation’s children against violence and abuse.
Noting that the Government could not undertake this task alone, Miss Grange said the society has to “play a larger role” in this regard.
She was addressing the opening of the Third Caribbean Child Research Conference, being held at the Jamaica Pegasus Hotel from October 21 to 22.
The Minister said that the impact of domestic violence, particularly on children and women, was of concern to the Government, and pointed out that over the years, successive administrations had expressed similar sentiments.
“In response, in 2004, our Parliament passed the Child Care and Protection Act, and in 2006, the first Children’s Advocate, in the person of Mrs. Mary Clarke, was appointed,” Miss Grange informed, adding that a Children’s Registry, was subsequently established in January 2007.
The Minister explained that the Registry receives reports on children suspected of being, or who are deemed likely to be abused, abandoned, neglected, ill-treated, or are otherwise in need of care and protection.
“Anyone who suspects or knows (that) a child is being abused, must make a report to the Registry, and victims can also make reports. The Child Care and Protection Act, makes it the duty of every adult to report every incident,” she explained.
Minister of Information, Culture, Youth and Sports, Olivia Grange (right), is presented with a publication on Child Rights by the Caribbean’s Outstanding Child Researcher for 2007, Danielle Edwards, at Tuesday’s (Oct. 21) official opening of a two-day Caribbean Child Research Conference, at the Jamaica Pegasus Hotel in Kingston. Miss Grange was the guest speaker. The conference is being held under the theme: ‘Promoting Child Rights through Research: Building a Region Fit for Children’.
Miss Grange pointed out that in 2007, some 418 reports of violence against and abuse of children were received, and lamented the fact that this figure more than tripled during the first six months of this year, which saw approximately 1,500 reports being made.
In light of this, the Minister, who also has responsibility for Women’s and Gender Affairs, said the administration has moved to counter the development by establishing an Emergency Task Force, which was announced by Prime Minister, Bruce Golding, two weeks ago. That group, which comprises representatives of Government ministries and agencies, the Cabinet Office, and the Opposition, has been mandated to come up with short, medium, and long term strategies to effectively address the issue of violence against children.
Some of these include the establishment of a three-digit emergency number, collaboration between the Constabulary Communications Network (CCN) and cable and cellular operators, and strengthening the capacity of the Centre for Investigation of Sexual Offences and Child Abuse (CISOCA) by the Ministry of National Security.
Members of the Task Force are scheduled to meet again next week, at which time the Prime Minister is expected to be updated on the plans of action to be pursued.
Miss Grange stressed the need for the wider society to be integrally involved. “No matter what we do as a Government, and no matter what happens at conferences such as these, the society itself has to play a larger role. I, therefore, want to make a special appeal to members of the society to get involved, and become proactive in the fight to protect your children. Take up your phones and call.report your suspicions. It is better to report and be wrong about your suspicions, than not to report and then hear that the child is maimed or killed,” the Minister said.
The regional interdisciplinary conference, which is being held under the theme: ‘Promoting Child Rights through Research: Building a Region Fit for Children’, is being attended by over 100 participants from Jamaica and the Caribbean.
It aims to share research findings on children throughout the region, as well as strengthen the network of researchers on issues affecting them. The conference is being staged by the Planning Institute of Jamaica (PIOJ), in partnership with the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF); the Sir Arthur Lewis Institute for Social and Economic Studies (SALISES), at the University of the West Indies; the Caribbean Child Development Centre, and the Office of the Children’s Advocate.