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In historic first, children to address Parliament on violence

Sunday, November 17, 2019

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History will be made on Tuesday when for the first time a group of children will address the House of Representatives in a special session on violence against them. The session has been organised by UNICEF Jamaica, in collaboration with the Office of the Children's Advocate (OCA) and the Ministry of Education, Youth and Information.

Also speaking during the session will be Mariko Kagoshima, head of UNICEF Jamaica; Diahann Gordon Harrison, Children's Advocate; and Dr Howard Taylor, executive director of the Global Partnership to End Violence against Children.

The session is being held on the eve of World Children's Day and marks the culmination of activities led by UNICEF throughout 2019 to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC30) — with a focus on violence against children. Official figures from the Jamaica Constabulary Force show 40 children, 31 boys and nine girls, murdered across the island between January 1 and November 9.

This was the same number for the corresponding period last year and a shade below the 49 killed in 2017. In 2016 the police reported that 36 children were killed in the same period while 58 were killed in 2015.

UNICEF and the OCA have both indicated that they are deeply and increasingly concerned about the alarming scope and harmful impact of violence against Jamaican children in all settings, including the prevalence of sexual violence and corporal punishment.

The main CRC30 activity was a series of town hall events that engaged children to gain insights on their experiences with violence and their own ideas for actions that the Government can take to address violence against children.

UNICEF staged these events between August and October in collaboration with the Child Protection and Family Services Agency (CPFSA), the OCA and Talk Up Yout. Close to 300 children between ages six and 17 were engaged in the parishes of Kingston, St James and Clarendon.

“Violence is taking a heartbreaking toll on Jamaican children,” said Kagoshima.

“At the town halls we learnt that too many children are experiencing physical, emotional and sexual violence at the hands of family members and people they trust. Too many are witnessing violence affecting their family or being bullied. And too many are scared to report acts of violence,” added Kagoshima.

The Special Session on Violence against Children is intended to call for urgent action by the Government to implement theNational Plan of Action for an Integrated Response to Children and Violence (NPACV) 2018-2023.

The NPACV was tabled in Parliament earlier this year and will be launched on November 19, after the special session.

“It is indeed quite encouraging that the National Plan of Action for an Integrated Response to Violence against Children will be launched at such a critical time in Jamaica. Our children will undoubtedly stand to benefit positively from this 'all of Government approach' that is fully focused on prioritising strategies that promote meaningful responses to all forms of violence which continue to negatively impact children,” said Gordon Harrison.

Jamaica is a designated Pathfinding country under the Global Partnership to End Violence against Children, which obligates the country to take accelerated action to reduce and prevent violence against children.

Jamaica's commitments are outlined in the recently updated NPACV. Its implementation will be guided by a National Commission on the Prevention of Violence, which has been set up by Prime Minister Andrew Holness.


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