Jamaica Making Strides in Safeguarding Children’s Rights


Jamaica, through the Child Development Agency (CDA), is making significant strides in safeguarding the rights of the nation’s children.
“Jamaica made a giant leap forward with the passage of the Child Care and Protection Act last year,” said Alison Anderson, Chief Executive Officer of the CDA.
She told JIS News, that the passage of the Act had given the CDA the proper legislative framework to protect children, and it was in keeping with obligations under the Convention of the Rights of the Child, which spoke to many of the key principles that assist and support the work of the agency.
The CEO also noted, that the establishment of the CDA had enabled the creation of a new, proficient and effective framework for addressing the rights of children and their needs. “We have a long way to go but I think that we have the basis and foundation for really making a difference and also improving the quality of services offered to children,” she told JIS News.
“We are working on many fronts such as the tertiary protection system, where children come into the care of the state. We have to ensure and enforce standards,” the CEO continued.
The CDA is also working on primary prevention, public education, social mobilization and community outreach in order to help citizens understand what their responsibilities are and to equip them to be better parents, among other things.
In addition, the agency has adopted a multi-sectoral approach in developing policies that relate to and affect children. These include the National Plan of Action on Children and Violence, the National Plan of Action on Child Labour and the new policy framework for street children.
Even with these important gains, Miss Anderson has acknowledged that there were still challenges and the Committee on the Rights of the Child had outlined a number of areas of need.
The shortcomings, as outlined by the committee, include the need for children to be allowed greater access to information and services as well as decision-making. “We have a long way to go in terms of access to services and the fact of social exclusion based on poverty, education and also health, particularly when we talk about adolescent reproductive health,” Miss Anderson pointed out. “In terms of the way we treat our children in the home is another matter of concern. Of course culturally, we have a fairly energetic approach to disciplining children but, we need to go a far way, in terms of understanding that there are alternatives,” the CEO added.
Miss Anderson is expected to speak on these and other issues affecting the Rights and Protection of the Child, when she addresses the symposium on Human Rights and the Administration of Justice at the Northern Caribbean University campus in Mandeville next week.
In terms of child rights as a whole, Miss Anderson said that there was need to focus on the areas of promotion, protection and provision. She noted that while Jamaica was “not doing too badly” in the area of promotion of rights, there was still concern about the protection of the child in the context of the high levels of crime and violence, and there was still “some way to go” in terms of provision, given the fact that the country was still struggling with intergenerational poverty.
As to the way forward, Miss Anderson told JIS News that the CDA would “keep plugging away” at the various fronts and to bring improvements to the tertiary protection system, so that children could be afforded rehabilitation, recovery and reintegration. “We do not want to be warehousing children when they come into the tertiary protection system and that will be a big challenge for the CDA,” she stated.”We also need to enforce the rules and laws that are there.obviously we have a little difficulty with that sometimes, however more public education will help with that,” Miss Anderson pointed out, while adding that the CDA had to ensure that the policy framework continued to be in line with children’s needs.
The Human Rights symposium is a collaborative effort between the Ministry of Justice and the NCU and will be held from February 22 to 23.
The event, which is being held under the theme: ‘Human Rights – Justice Truth and Accountability’ will seek to create an understanding of what human rights should mean to the people of Jamaica. It will explore human rights as it relates to health issues, persons with disabilities, the environment, freedom of worship, terrorism and religion, among other things.

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