By Hon. Isalean Phillip
Greetings viewers, listeners, citizens and residents. This year’s Child Abuse Prevention Week slated from November 20th – 25th is being celebrated under the theme “Leading with Prevention: Creating Awareness, Promoting Alliances & Strengthening Communities”. This week of activities is centered around the international observance of World Children’s Day which is celebrated on November 20th, and on the heels of the newly declared observation of World Day for the Prevention and Healing from Child Sexual Exploitation, Abuse and Violence on November 18th.
The international theme for World Children’s Day is “Inclusion for Every Child”. This theme builds on the principle of no one left behind and reminds us of the importance of child rights, the role children play in our community, our need to nurture, protect and guide them but also the need for them to be included in every aspect of our society, including children being able to contribute in decision and policy-making processes.
The Ministry of Social Development and Gender Affairs continues to receive unfortunate reports of child abuse indicating how common this social problem really is. We know, however, that reports do not always tell the full picture since for every incident of abuse reported there are still several that remain unreported. This year, the Ministry’s celebration of World Children’s Day is therefore focused on raising awareness around child abuse and advocating for child abuse prevention. Any form of abuse, whether emotional, physical, or sexual, limits and curtails a child’s inclusion and growth into healthy adolescents and adults.
The Ministry of Social Development and Gender Affairs intends to increase awareness of this serious issue throughout the week and beyond by highlighting child abuse prevention strategies, strengthening alliances with community groups and stakeholders, and creating new partnerships that will ultimately lead to communities that provide safer environments for children and facilitate their holistic inclusion.
As adults, we should all know what child abuse is, and have an idea of the signs and symptoms of child abuse as well as to know where resources are available to address known cases of child abuse taking place. If you are unaware or would like guidance on finding information, please reach out to the Ministry or Department of Probation and Child Protection Services.
Parents with greater support systems tend to be more resilient, less isolated, and therefore more likely to provide safer home environments for children. As such, we must provide support for parents and families not only in the household but also in the workplace by seeking to implement family-friendly policies that encourage family cohesion.
As neighbours and community residents, we should increase volunteerism by showing up to volunteer during youth-friendly activities with organizations that engage children and youth in positive ways for development. You may want to consider becoming a scout leader, offer to teach a baking course for children, volunteer to read stories to children at the local library or teach a Sunday school class. Having adults involved in these activities ensures that children are not only properly supervised but are also actively engaged in positive ways that help in growing their confidence to advance their development.
Finally, as we work on building healthier relationships with children we must learn to respect our young children by listening to them and helping them to learn and set boundaries as human individuals. We must never disregard their cries for help and protest. Let us learn to respect the innocence of our children and speak out about child abuse when it is seen or suspected. Child Abuse Prevention must begin with each and every one of us.
The colour blue has been identified as the primary colour for child abuse prevention and World Children’s Day. The Ministry is encouraging persons to get creative and sport something blue on Friday, November 25th as we stand in solidarity against child abuse. You may consider Wearing something Blue, painting your nails blue, making a blue cake, or dying your hair to mark the occasion and showcase your creativity in support of child abuse prevention. However you choose to wear your blue, we encourage you to take a photo and post it on social media with the hashtag #gobluedayskn!
Remember that every child matters and every child should grow up in safe, harm-free environments. We look forward to your solidarity and support for child abuse prevention.
(Isalean Phillip is the Junior Minister with responsibility for Social Development, Gender Affairs, Aging and Disabilities, in St. Kitts & Nevis)