DPI, GUYANA, Wednesday, September 27, 2017
There is a need for the public to make it their sacred duty and responsibility to ensure children are protected against all forms of abuse.
This was underscored on Wednesday during the Childcare & Protection Agency’s Child Protection Week rally held at the Anna Regina Market Tarmac, under the theme “Breaking the Silence on Child Sexual Abuse”.
Addressing the rally, Minister of Social Protection Amna Ally encouraged citizens to be vigilant of their surroundings and to inform government officials of anything untoward they may have witnessed or heard, to ensure the safety of the child.
“Let us (citizens) work with law enforcement agencies to prevent such occurrences by pro-actively reporting suspicious behavior. The police and the courts are empowered under the Domestic Violence Act as well as the Sexual Offences Act and the Children Act to arrest, prosecute and convict perpetrators of women and children”, the Minister said.
The Ministry of Social Protection has launched a national multi-media awareness campaign to assist in sensitising the populace of the plight of children who have suffered abuse and to identify the signs and symptoms in order to spur the public into protective action.
Minister Ally said her ministry is also, “working to strengthen the capacity of parents in their protective role,” adding that there is a special parenting programme currently being conducted at the community level and persons can contact their district offices to participate within their respective communities.
The minister thanked the stakeholders who have consistently participated in the child protection week activities every year noting that the ministry hopes to garner the support of the media, non-governmental and community organisations, women and youth organisations, to join the ministry in creating a society free of child neglect, abuse, and exploitation.
Director of Child Services Ann Greene said though child sexual abuse is a topic that persons do not wish discuss, it needs to be addressed so that necessary action is taken to prevent both the mental and psychological damage caused by such actions.
According to the Director, statistics reflect that Region Four has recorded the highest number of reported child sexual abuse cases since it has the largest population of all the regions. Whilst Region Two has been recorded as having the highest rate of child sexual abuse cases. The Director emphasised that 424 child sexual abuse cases were reported for the first half of the year, noting that there may have many unreported child sexual abuse cases.
The Director reiterated that though the child protection week helps to place focus on protecting children and ensuring their rights, the current statistics of children being abused is one too many and it needs to stop.
“One child too many, there should be no children abused. The rape of our children must stop…as sexually abused children have no place in our society. Being here today and being part of this activity is making a statement that you are against this form of evil against children. Being here is lending to the Ministry of Social Protection as a whole”, Greene added.
She stressed that persons must continue to report cases of child abuse until they are able to see action from government authorities.
Meanwhile, Region Two Regional Chairman (RC) Devanand Ramdatt commended the ministry for hosting the event. He, however, observed that there is a need for government and non-governmental stakeholder participation in highlighting such an issue since it ensures the protection of the nation’s future leaders.
The RC explained that there should not only be infrastructural development but human development across all walks of Guyana. He also encouraged and invited persons to report to relevant authorities once issues of concern regarding children are observed in their community. He also advised them to do so without fear or shame, whether it is a family member or neighbor, as it will help save lives or prevent permanent damage to the child’s psyche.
UNICEF representative Audrey Michele and Regional Executive Officer (REO) Rupert Hopkinson both expressed appreciation to the ministry for bringing the event to the region, noting that it is the first time ever an event that holds such importance in protecting the children of Guyana was held in the region.
By: Neola Damon