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United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) Representative in Jamaica, Robert Fuderich, has charged researchers to spend more time analysing data on child-related issues in an effort to solve the many problems that continue to affect Caribbean children.

The UNICEF Representative, who was addressing the opening ceremony of the 7th annual Caribbean Child Research Conference on Tuesday, at the Jamaica Conference Centre, downtown Kingston, said that there is no shortage of data on child-related matters, pointing to the numerous research, policy and legal documents that have been presented over the years.

He argued, however, that what is lacking is the necessary analysis of such data to find out the root causes behind many of the issues that continue to impact children.

“The point is that we are aware of the ‘what’ and we do a good job communicating that ‘what’. What I would like to suggest today, is that in the years moving forward, we need to spend far more time exploring, dissecting and sharing the ‘why’,” he stated.

Citing the example of teenage pregnancy, he argued that it is not only necessary to collect and communicate data on the issue, but that “we also have a duty to explain why so many of our children are getting pregnant so young".

He cited a recent workshop with teen mothers, where it was revealed that a cohort of girls from one parish had no other aspiration than to become a mother at a young age. “Because of social norms in their communities, these girls felt that they only had value and worth being a mother and a homemaker and the younger they started, the better," he said.

Mr. Fuderich stated that careful analysis of current data is necessary for the unveiling and understanding of such complex and deeply embedded norms and practices in society. These practices, he said, must be “slowly tackled over time if they are ever to be overturned”.

In the meantime, Executive Director, Mona School of Business and Management, Paul Simmons, noted that through the conference, young people are being empowered through research and participation.

He said this represented a new paradigm “where not only do we wish to hear from children, but we wish to empower them by facilitating their participation in arriving at solutions to issues that affect them”.

The two-day conference, which is being held from November 6 to 7, is organised by the Sir Arthur Lewis Institute of Social and Economic Studies (SALISES) in collaboration with several entities including UNICEF, Planning Institute of Jamaica (PIOJ), Office of the Children’s Advocate (OCA) and the Office of the Children’s Registry (OCR).

The main objectives are: to promote a culture of research among students in high schools in the Caribbean; recognise the work of child researchers in child-related research; and disseminate findings from such research.

Other speakers at the event will include: Minister of Youth and Culture, Hon. Lisa Hanna; Professor of Child Health, Child Development and Behaviour, University of the West Indies, Maureen Samms-Vaughan; and Professor Emeritus, SALISES, UWI, Neville Duncan.