Tortello Advocates Children Discuss their Own Rights


Senior Advisor to Jamaica’s Ministry of Education, Dr. Rebecca Tortello, says it is “vital” that decision makers involve children in discussions on their rights.
Dr. Tortello was representing Minister of Education, Hon. Andrew Holness, at the Caribbean Child Research Conference at the Jamaica Conference Centre, downtown Kingston, Wednesday (October 20).
She said the conference was one of the most “visible and realistic” ways of involving children in national discussions, as it not only looks at research into their issues, but provides a platform for them to share their own research on various topics.
Dr. Tortello said that, as part of the thrust to have the country pay attention to what children have to say, the Ministry would be compiling research papers presented by students for dissemination to its regional offices, schools and for posting to its website.
The theme for this year’s conference, spearheaded by the Sir Arthur Lewis Institute of Social and Economic Studies at the University of the West Indies (UWI), is ‘Five years before 2015: The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and Child Rights in the Caribbean’.
Over the course of the two-day event, discussions will be held on the way forward in relation to the MDGs; children and violence; children and HIV/AIDS and sexual behaviour; children in need of care and protection; and children and poverty.
Dr. Tortello said the conference was a “good wake up call as to how far Jamaica has come in relation to the achievement of the MDGs, how far the country still has to go as well as in providing guidance on how to get there.
Regional Director of the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), Latin America and the Caribbean, Bernt Aasen, said considerable progress has been made in improving the situation of children in need. However, he commented that there is concern about the “tyranny of averages” as, according to him, national averages sometime conceal broad and widening disparities in poverty and children’s development within countries. He noted that the widest and most glaring disparities exist in the Caribbean and Latin America, considered the most unequal region in the world.
Mr. Aasen said a serious side effect of poverty and disparity was violence and, consistent with this, Latin American and Caribbean has been found to be one of the most violent regions in the world, with about six million children and adolescents suffering abuse each year.
He disclosed that a lot of the gains made in ensuring child survival are often wiped out during adolescence due to violence, and underscored the importance of an equity-focused approach to development.
“Achieving the MDGs with equity is a crucial step in making the rights of children a reality for all. We can achieve this through policies and programmes which have children’s best interest in mind, with a focus on the most vulnerable, on the hardest to reach and where the needs are the greatest,” he stated.
To accelerate progress towards achieving the MDGs, Mr. Aasen suggested strengthening accountability in public policy, and ensuring that social investments make a positive impact on the lives of children and adolescents. He also suggested advocacy for specific measures against child poverty and malnutrition in national strategies and increased investment in education.

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