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The established partnership between the Government of Jamaica and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), which at its core seeks to provide the country’s children with the opportunity to lead qualitatively better lives, has been hailed for achieving a number of successes.
Speaking against the background of the four-year initiative, which seeks to put strategies in place to empower children, Minister of Education, Youth and Culture, Maxine Henry-Wilson, pointed to the implementation of the Roving Caregivers programme and advocacy methodologies and initiatives to improve early childhood education, care and development.
She was delivering the keynote address at the mid-term review of the 2002 to 2006 Cooperation Programme between the Government and UNICEF, held at the Jamaica Conference Centre today (Nov.17).
Continuing, she noted: “indeed, the use of the life cycle approach has resulted in interventions being implemented at specific points in the lives of children, which will make a critical difference in their overall development. It emphasises the interconnectedness of the stages in the life of a child and the need for these to work in a continuum.” Pointing to actual successes achieved, the Education Minster mentioned strides made in the areas of reproductive health and infant mortality.
“Significant improvements are being reported in the incidence of paediatric AIDS cases for 2003. Birth registration levels are now estimated at 95 per cent with increasing awareness among parents,” she added.
Despite the gains made, Mrs. Henry Wilson pointed to distressing statistics, which indicated that children were the predominant victims of sexual offences such as incest, attempted rape, indecent assault and gross indecency, and “a large number of children [are being injured] in violence with 86 per cent being injured by someone they know.”
Also troubling was the fact that one-fifth of girls, aged 15 to 19, “are the victims of forced sex, overwhelmingly perpetrated by someone they have had a close relationship with”, she said further.
The Education Minister said that these facts represented an indictment on the wider society, in terms of how children were being brought up. “We have to be a child-centred society, living the realisation, that it takes a village to raise a child and each of us must be part of that village,” Minister Henry Wilson observed.