Parents, guardians charged to provide safe environment for children

– during Child Protection Week 2020 virtual rally

Minister of Human Services and Social Security, the Hon. Dr. Vindhya Persaud says families and communities should network to provide safe havens for children to ensure that they enjoy a childhood that is free from abuse.

The Minister made this appeal at a virtual rally held on Wednesday in observance of Child Protection Week 2020, which was held under the theme “Breaking the Silence on Child Sexual Abuse.” 

Minister of Human Services and Social Security, the Hon. Dr. Vindhya Persaud and Director of Childcare and Protection Agency, Ann Greene interact with children at the Children and Family Care Centre, Plum Park, Sophia.

With the closure of schools due to the COVID-19 pandemic, child sexual abuse has become the most prevalent threat children face. The Ministry has, therefore, upped its efforts to ensure that parents are aware of the danger, and are knowledgeable about ways of protecting their children. 

“The Ministry understands the importance of a nurturing family in the development of children. Families need to be educated and supported in their role,’’ Dr. Persaud said.

During the rally, the Ministry also reiterated urgent calls for adults to listen and believe children who report and form of sexual abuse.

Director of the Juvenile Justice within the Ministry of Home Affairs, Orin Boston, in his remarks, said the public needs to become more mindful about protecting children.

“Many children and families can become vulnerable. There is need for informal support networks…. We need teachers, churches and elders to be onboard in the protection of children,” Boston said.

If there is suspicion of abuse, this should be quickly reported he said, adding that there are rapid investigations of child sexual abuse, with measures in place put children in a safe and secure environment.

Boston also advised parents to frequently remind their children about the importance of social distancing and that they should remain indoors during the curfew hours.

Meanwhile, Director, Childcare and Protection Agency, Ann Greene said the public must cooperate to keep the nation’s children safe.

“For the period January to August 2020 the Child Care and Protection Agency has responded to 529 cases of child sexual abuse with Region Nine having the highest rate of abuse with 4.6 per 1000 children. [This is] followed by Region One with 3.8 and then Region Seven with 2. 7,” she said.

Greene called for more persons to become advocates of children’s rights and to support efforts to ensure their safe childhoods. She also called for the establishment of a special victims’ quick response unit in police stations, staffed with specially trained police officers, social services officers including child protection officers, and public health officers to facilitate speedy investigations and bring child sex abusers to swift justice.

Stakeholders including the Ethnic Relations Commission, the Guyana Hindu Dharmic Sabha, other religious organisations, and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) also participated in the virtual rally.

The event was the highlight of observances being held under the overall theme, “Protecting Children and Empowering Families to cope with the Global Pandemic”.

Cases of child sexual abuse can be reported to the Childcare and Protection Agency on telephone number: 227-0979.

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