Remarks by Hon. Volda Lawrence, M.P, Minister of Social Protection For State of the World Population Report, November 9, 2016

 

Ministry of Social Protection, Guyana, November 10, 2016

Trafficking of Children     

The Ministry of Social Protection is happy to be in partnership with the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) in this Launch of the State of the World Population Report, 2016. This report targets the future of the 10-year olds within the framework of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, adopted in 2015 by some 193 countries, that envisions a course of transformation and sustainable development in which all individuals are included and their rights respected. This commitment to and realization of the 2030 Agenda, embodying the 17 Sustainable Development Goals and 169 targets mean that the onus is on each of our  respective Governments to detail programmes over the next 15 years that will affirm human progress in all areas identified.

520a4185This report focuses on the choices and investments that have to be made for our children by all our stakeholders- parents, policymakers, educators, health-care professionals, business personnel, entrepreneurs, the media personnel as well as community leaders to ensure their empowerment and future development. It is imperative, therefore, for our Government to work in concert with all the relevant Agencies to elaborate a collective and coherent Plan of Action underpinning the Sustainable Goals that will help our children to transition and realize their full potential.

The Ministry of Social Protection has responsibility for the social well-being of all including our most vulnerable group, the child. We are faced with many social challenges throughout all the Administrative regions but more particularly in the hinterland areas where access is difficult because of geographical, cultural and language factors. The issues concerning our children are widespread and include child labour, child abuse, sexual violence, suicide among others. I wish to focus this morning on the issue of Trafficking of children, which is one of the critical areas that must be addressed if we are to eliminate the violation of our children’s rights.  I am sure that the Honorable Minister Garrido-Lowe will elaborate on this in her presentation as she highlights the challenges in the hinterland region..

Trafficking in persons is a worldwide social ill that has devastating effects on the child, the family, the community and the society at large and results from a multiplicity of factors among which poverty looms threateningly. As populations grow and alleviating poverty becomes more difficult to manage, the incidence of trafficking in persons will spiral globally with the heaviest toll being paid by our vulnerable adolescent girls and young women. Global statistics already highlight the large geographic inequality in the availability of resources and unless stringent measures are put in place, our children will become more and more susceptible globally to exploitative employment arrangements.

The picture seems bleak and gloomy, but we must intensify our efforts to curb this malignant ill and restore dignity and respect to our children. In Guyana, there exists a number of laws aimed at protecting our children among which are the Child Protection Act, the Sexual Offences Act, the Labour Act and the Trafficking in Persons Act. Each of these Acts is geared to provide protection against perpetrators for our vulnerable groups specifically women and children and where the welfare of the latter is involved, the Childcare and Protection Agency (CPA) of the Ministry of Social Protection is the Agency that has responsibility for dealing with all matters related to persons below the age of eighteen (18).  Our child victims of trafficking in persons are referred to the Childcare and Protection Agency and together with the Trafficking in Persons Unit, an individualized , victim oriented care plan, focusing on protection and rehabilitation, is prepared and implemented. Further as part of its operational procedure, the Counter- Trafficking in Persons Unit references guidelines from the Combating of Trafficking in Persons Act and provides a number of services which include protective care, medical services, counseling and guidance among others to address the needs of identified child-trafficking victims.

The Counter –Trafficking in Persons unit is guided by statistical data and I want to share with you some figures for the period January 1, 2016 to October 31, 2016 so that you can get an appreciation of the gender and age range of the victims. Even as I do so, please note that this data refers to the number of suspected cases referred to the Ministry of Social Protection’s Counter Trafficking in Persons Unit and not actual confirmed cases of trafficking in persons within Guyana.

YEAR NUMBER OF REPORTED SUSPECTED CASES NUMBER OF ALLEGED VICTIMS SEX AGE RANGE
      Male Female Unverified Sex Below 18 18 and Above Unverified Age
2012 32 54 5 30 19 35 7 12
2013 30 56 11 52 3 31 21 4
2014 28 59 6 51 2 24 34 1
2015 30 65 3 59 3 22 37 6
2016 41 103 6 97   61 28 14

The data reveal that the number of alleged victims for the first 4years was fairly constant but in 2016 up to the period of October 2016, there has been a significant increase almost doubling what pertained in 2012. Even more significant across the 5-year period is that our female victims far outstripped the male victims and our number of alleged victims under the age of 18, except in 2014 & 2015 was significantly higher than the victims in the 18 and above category. *(You can elaborate further if you wish to).

I am sure that you can, just from a cursory glance at the statistics, appreciate the daunting task that protection of our girls entails. We are at a critical juncture where support for our girls is paramount for the collective well-being of their future. The Counter-Trafficking in Persons Unit, in collaboration with the Ministerial Task Force on Trafficking in Persons, in recognition of this increasing trend, has initiated a number of activities which include school awareness campaigns and road side gaffs to deter child trafficking. For the period 2016 – 2017, the Task Force envisions the hosting of several street theatres earmarked for schools and public spaces to sensitize and educate our children.  In addition, the Ministry’s Counter-Trafficking in Persons Unit has proposed for 2017, the creation of a school’s Trafficking in Persons Module to be implemented within the Secondary Schools’ Curriculum throughout Guyana by the end of 2018. As a follow-up to the awareness sessions being conducted by the Task Force in schools, the Unit intends to host a nationwide campaign/competition in the areas of short stories, skits and artwork and envisages a release of a Victim’s Rights Handbook intended to educate and sensitize all potential victims. The Unit also has planned a number of training sessions for officials in the area of victim identification, referral and care before the end of 2016 and several others are proposed for 2017.

I wish to reiterate that in order to fulfill the goals of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development with regard to our vulnerable children, the need for a multi-sectoral approach is urgently required. The issues that our children face span and overlap in all our Ministries and this call for a collective approach to address these concerns cannot be delayed. I am convinced that in pooling our resources and our expertise, we can impact significantly on the lives of our children, whom we know are our assets for tomorrow. Let us not allow our children to be violated, to be exploited, to careen down a path bridled by poverty and powerlessness, but together in our collaborative efforts, provide a platform and a launching pad where their potential can be developed to the fullest and we can assure a good life for all of them.

I wish to thank the United Nations Population Fund for this report and to state that the Ministry of Social Protection expresses its commitment to continued collaboration and support of future initiatives.

Thank You.

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