Mr. Speaker there is a lot for me to be thankful for in this 50th year of our Independence. I thank Almighty God for the gift of life and his many blessings.
I thank the People's National Party, this great Party whose policies and whose philosophy, like my own, put people first.
I thank the great citizens of South East St. Ann for the privilege of representing them; the Most Honourable Prime Minister for my appointment as Minister; and the hard working staff in the Ministry of Youth and Culture and in our various agencies. In particular, I thank my permanent secretary.
Mr. Speaker, my family has been my rock and a source of great strength. Especially my son, Alexander, who continues to inspire me – I truly love you.
As the Minister of Youth and Culture I represent and speak on behalf of the majority of our population – 55% comprising about 1.54 million persons who are under 30 years old.
Mr. Speaker, as children represent a vital constituency of the Youth and Culture portfolio, which I have the honour to lead, I crave your indulgence to listen to the voice of a child saying what she expects from her leaders:
"…it was not until now that child survival and rights have captivated public attention and awareness and become an issue in political debate. I say we now have the opportunity to make the commitment to bring about the care and support needed to mobilize the medication, medical facilities and finance to eradicate child suffering, torment and poverty. We know the knowledge and will power already exist, it is just for us to turn something that can be done into something that is done. I urge you to help it and make it an idea whose time has come for the good of the children. Thank you."
Mr. Speaker, that child was a young Lisa Hanna 23 years ago speaking at the launch of the UNICEF candle vigils to promote Jamaica's signing of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.
Mr. Speaker, today, I stand before you as proof in our Golden Jubilee year that the early nation-building work of Norman Manley, Alexander Bustamante, the People's National Party, the Jamaica Labour Party and other pioneers, has enabled a child in Jamaica to actually fulfill her dream and be proud to be labeled "Made in Jamaica."
Today, I have been given the awesome responsibility and the authority to make something that "can be done into something that is done." I thank all who have contributed to my journey of growth and development, both in good times and in bad.
Mr. Speaker, I wish to start this presentation to the Parliament by focusing on children, as they are my passion – a passion I have carried for my entire adult life. This passion is shared by our Administration led by the Most Honourable Prime Minister.
It is our mission as a Government to ensure that no child is denied the right to be safe, protected, empowered and provided with the opportunities to realize their dreams. As a country we have a long way to go, because our society has a culture of child abuse which we must overcome.
Preliminary data from the OCR shows that the number of reports on child abuse and maltreatment rose by 22% in 2011. A further review of the OCR figures reveals that there was a 70% increase in the number of sexual abuse reports, 53 % increase in emotional abuse and 50% in reports of child labour.
It is not only the child that suffers, but Jamaica suffers as well, when this child attains working age and has been denied the opportunity of realizing his or her full potential in the work force.
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