The Ministry of Health, through the Division of Human Services hosed to a three day working session to develop a CARICOM Regional Strategy for the Prevention of Violence Against Children which was launched Tuesday 22nd September at Palm Haven Hotel.
Deputy Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Health, Wellness, Human Services and Gender Relations, Elda Michel stated that in St. Lucia the greatest concern in relation to violence against children is sexual abuse among female adolescents between the age of 12 – 15 years.
“The problem is exacerbated by the fact that often times the mothers of those adolescent girls do not believe that their children are telling the truth about their partners in the home. The girls are left to continue the agony of abuse because they fear their mother’s disbelief or even reprisal.” Michel stated.
The “Break the Silence” campaign was launched in St. Lucia in 2013 spearheaded by the Division of Human Services, with the aim of generating greater public awareness and attention to the issues of child abuse and violence against children. The campaign focused on encouraging members of the public to speak out against all forms of child abuse.
Heather Stewart, Child Protection Officer for UNICEF Eastern Caribbean informed the audience that this workshop is a followup to the United Nations study on violence against children in 2012. The UNICEF Regional Office and its partners from the Global Movement for Children sort to review the advances made by countries in the Caribbean region on the implementation of the recommendations of the UN study.
“At the Caribbean consultation representatives from CARICOM member states adopted the Kingston declaration calling for the Caribbean community to play an important role in monitoring the implementation of the study’s recommendations and to ensure that prevention and elimination of all forms of violence against children is a priority at CARICOM’s deliberations on Children. And thereafter UNICEF made a commitment to CARICOM to support the development of a strategy on the prevention and elimination of all forms of violence against children. This workshop today starts the formal process of the development at that strategy.” Stewart noted.
The Caribbean is adversely affected by the high prevalence of various forms of violence which occurs in different settings, in the home, school, community, institutions of care, sports even during migration with no reduction in recent years. So says Programme Manager for Human Resource Development at the CARICOM Secretariat, Dr. Morella Joseph.
Dr. Joseph added “Protecting children from abuse and violence should be a key priority for all member states of the Caribbean Community because these issues have a devastating impact on children threatening their survival, their development, protection and their participation in society and have serious psychological, developmental and socio-economic implications. Conversely successful protective actions increase children’s chances to grow-up physically and mentally healthy, confident and self respecting and less likely to abuse and exploit others.”
The workshop which was also supported by The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) brought together participants from as far north as the British Virgin Islands (BVI) to Suriname in the South.
Special Mention was made of the participation of the representatives from Dominica in light of the recent passage of Tropical Storm Erica which caused severe personal/infrastructural damage as well as loss of life within their country.