Our children cannot tolerate a year similar to 2023, says Blaine
Child rights group Hear The Children’s Cry has opened 2024 with a repeat of its call for Prime Minister Andrew Holness to order a National Child Audit, with particular attention to underserved and remote communities.
“We need to have an accurate and up-to-date assessment of the conditions under which our most vulnerable citizens, our children, are currently living – with the aim to correct the urgent needs for improvement,” said Hear The Children’s Cry founder Betty-Ann Blaine on Tuesday in a release titled ‘Declare 2024 a Year for our Children’.
“We also encourage the Government to provide adequate resources to support family life, and to ensure that the Government budget for this is commensurate with the needs to be met.
“It is also critical for the Government to ensure that the laws for the protection of children are enforced, and that those who abuse, brutalise, and murder Jamaican youngsters do not walk free as has happened so many times in the past,” added Blaine.
She said Hear The Children’s Cry is challenging Jamaicans in every sector, every parish and every community, not only to declare 2024 a year for our children but also to take decisive action to make child safety an actual reality in this country.
“When we look at the atrocities meted out to Jamaican children over the past 12 months we cannot tolerate another year like 2023.
“Children have been abused physically and sexually, they have been intentionally or carelessly murdered, they have died by stray bullets from adult warfare, they have been chopped to death in family feuds, burned to death in home fires and killed by careless or drunken drivers. In many cases they have been neglected or abused at home. In other cases, children have been lured away from safety, violated and murdered, and most of their killers still walk the land with impunity,” said Blaine.
“Our children are crying out to us for help. We can and we must help them. Every Jamaican can play a part, as we dedicate 2024 as a year in which our children can be protected. We are inviting leaders and members of the following groups to get actively involved in promoting child safety in Jamaica,” added Blaine.
According to the children’s rights activist, in addition to the role of the Government, Hear The Children’s Cry is urging the private sector to support the effort to make 2024 a better year for Jamaica’s children with social media and other outreaches, especially geared to public awareness about child rights and child safety.
“Security companies and others who have teams regularly on the road are also being asked to play a part in making 2024 a year for our children, by asking their drivers to pay special attention to children using the road. They can assist by either taking direct action or calling for help if a child is seen to be in danger, or if he or she seems to be experiencing difficulty which seems unusual,” said Blaine.
She argued that as the main protectors of our children, parents need to play a bigger role in their education by keeping in close touch with the schools their children attend, including getting to know their teachers and guidance counsellors.
“Parents can also enhance the safety of their children by getting to know their neighbours and forming active community groups to watch out for youngsters in their neighbourhood. They might even consider setting up parent watch groups in their areas,” added Blaine.
Hear The Children’s Cry is also urging older Jamaicans who are no longer working full-time or otherwise, to encourage neighbours who are young parents and offer advice where needed and wanted, about child safety and other challenges.
“All of us as citizens are being called upon to be the eyes and ears for our children. This can include looking out for children in our communities and in all public spaces, calling the police if we see a child in trouble, by mentoring youngsters and providing other support through the school system.
“Each one of us can play a meaningful part in keeping Jamaica’s children safe, and building the foundation for a better, safer and more caring future for them,” declared Blaine.