I congratulate the National Child Month Committee on its successful advocacy in having today, Friday May 18, 2012 declared National Children’s Day. I am also pleased to note that following today’s inaugural commemoration, the third Friday of May each year will be observed in Jamaica as Children’s Day.
This special observance is one more way of focussing attention on a most valuable segment of Jamaica’s population. While constituting a prized national asset, our children also represent the most vulnerable grouping in our society. Children’s Day is an important national symbolic show of our commitment to the protection and care of our children.
We mark Children’s Day amid significant effort at the local and national level to improve the protection and care of our young ones in private homes, in public spaces and for those living in state care. The Government continues to grapple with the accepted need for greater public investment in the national child care and protection system. Private sector entities are also rallying to assist in meeting the needs of many Children’s Homes, Places of Safety, and schools; and are supporting other children-centred ventures.
The international community is a valuable partner in the delivery of effective children services for the protection and well-being of our young ones. As part of this partnership, the Government of Jamaica and the United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF) recently signed a Country Programme Action Plan for Children which will involve the investment of some J$1.2 billion in children protection and development interventions over the next five years.
No amount of financial investment however, can achieve the objectives of creating safe, stable environments for the nurturing and growth of our children without the involvement, active participation and commitment of every member of the society to this goal. The protection and wholesome nurturing of our children must become a top priority in the home, in communities, in schools.
We are reminded in timely manner by Nelson Mandela, former president of South Africa that "Safety and security don't just happen, they are the result of collective consensus and public investment. We owe our children, the most vulnerable citizens in our society, a life free of violence and fear." I endorse President Mandela’s view too that, "There can be no keener revelation of a society's soul than the way in which it treats its children."
As we reflect on these statements, I deplore and condemn the continued incidents in which children are being harmed and traumatised by members of the communities in which they live, and often times abused physically, sexually, mentally and emotionally by members of their very households and extended families whose duty it is to care for and protect them.
The abduction, disappearance, rape, carnal abuse, inappropriate touching, beating and other forms of abuse of children are symptomatic of a kind of barbarism and sickness not befitting members of a civilised society in the 21st century.
I call upon every Jamaican to use today, National Children’s Day as a turning point at which we conscientiously commit to doing more to ensure the protection of the children of Jamaica, and to ensure their freedom from violence, harm and unhealthy influences.
In addition to giving your children tokens or gifts parents, guardians and friends should utilise Children’s Day to show children love and appreciation in action and in the commitment of time.
I support the call by the National Child Month Committee for a public show of commitment to Children’s Day including the wearing of yellow clothing to reflect the joy that childhood should bring and the possibilities for the growth and development of our young ones.
Contact: Huntley Medley
Date: May 18, 2012