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Address on the Occassion of the Launching of the Year of the Child 19th November, 2003 by the Hon. Dr. Kenny D. Anthony

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19th NOVEMBER, 2003






We have often heard the adage: “the child shall lead the way.” Well, the truth is that the children shall lead the way, if, and only if, we have created for them an enabling environment. They will lead the way when, and only when, we have created for them a society where they are nurtured, respected and treated with pride and dignity. Our children will lead the way only if they are accorded the full rights of children as established under the United Nations Charter, articulated within the declaration on the Rights of the Child, and most importantly, as enshrined within our Constitution.

We must, therefore, remain firm in our commitment to provide safe havens for our children where they can dwell in freedom from fear and freedom from need. In this pursuit, we must be like ageless and fearless warriors for whom there can be no retreat or surrender.


It is in affirmation, therefore, of this desire and a demonstration of our collective wills to safeguard our children’s future that the Saint Lucia Chapter of the Global Movement for Children was launched. As you may recall, the Global Movement, spearheaded by Nelson Mandela and his wife Graca Machel, was a call for all Governments and Civil Societies to pursue collective actions geared towards creating a society fit for children. This Government has heeded the call. For this reason, the launching of the Saint Lucian Chapter of the Global Movement for Children was even more momentous, because it represented a watershed, and a public commitment to the cause of Saint Lucia’s children.

This spirit and conviction led the Government to set aside one year to promote the rights of our children, our society’s most valuable and precious resource. This decision is now unfolding on the very day set aside by the United Nations in recognition of the International Day Against Child Abuse.

One may very well ask, how could we devote only one year to so monumental a task? To this I would reply simply that the Year is more than symbolic – it is meant to provide the opportunity for the engendering of greater awareness of the plight of children who have fallen victim to one form of abuse or the other. It is a year to sensitize and jolt the collective consciousness of our people and galvanize them into action. It is a year to recognize that the children have made, and are continuing to make, contributions to the development of our society. It is important to recognize, however, that our ambitions to safeguard our children and to create for them better living conditions are not time-bound. We will continue to work to remove the scourges that imperil our children’s development.


Indeed, we have recorded some successes. Since Saint Lucia’s ratification of the Convention on the Rights of the Child on 16th July 1993 we have made significant gains in our health sector. As a consequence of deploying additional resources to Maternal and Child Health and Primary Health Care we are suffering fewer casualties. By fortifying our defensive mechanisms through a methodical process of immunization against communicable diseases, Saint Lucia has not recorded a single case of measles, mumps or polio. As a result of our ante-natal clinics, there has been a decrease in infant mortality rates and infants born with low birth weight. Through our post-natal clinics, where emphasis is placed on screening and early detection of developmental delays and disabilities, we have been able to sustain satisfactory levels in child survival and development. We have also seen an increase in the availability of supportive and therapeutic resources to complement the services provided by the clinics.


Our successes thus far do not mean, however, that the war has been won. We cannot relax our defenses, for the enemies continue to lurk in the shadows. Child and teenage pregnancies, and the emerging threats presented by HIV/AIDS are time bombs waiting to explode. They must therefore be defused by an intensification of our prevention campaigns. While, to some extent, we have been able to control the fallout from mother to child transmission through the availability of Anti Retroviral drugs for mothers who have tested HIV-positive during pregnancy, there are still concerns over children who innocently become infected as a result of child sexual abuse, or affected through the death of a parent or parents to AIDS-related illness. We must address these concerns with some urgency.


We have also made gains in the area of education, which represents another important battlefront in our struggle to secure a better future for our children. The Minister of Education continues to work assiduously and tirelessly to ensure that school places are created for every child of primary and secondary school age. Our Government subscribes to the theory that the cure for poverty is not money but knowledge. There is, however, a shared responsibility in this area. While we will commit to providing a school place for every child of primary and secondary school age, it is the responsibility of all parents and guardians to ensure that the children attend school. Unfortunately, too many have abandoned or delegated the responsibility for raising their children to the schools, the teachers and the state.

The area of Early Childhood Education continues to expand under the watchful eye of the Early Childhood Education Unit. Additionally, efforts have been made in the expansion of Special Education Centers to ensure that those children who are physically and/or mentally challenged are given the opportunity of an education and a chance to develop to their full potential. Unfortunately, the availability of space in these centres has not been able to satisfy the demand and we will have to do much more.


While we can be very proud of the strides made in both Health and Education, the area of Child Protection remains a burning issue. Over the past five years, the Division of Human Services and Family Affairs has observed a marked increase in the number of reported cases of Child Abuse. We cannot continue to treat these cases with mere sympathy and outrage. It is not words, but deeds that will lend redress to this situation. Consequently, we must put measures in place to prevent the incidences of all forms of child abuse, and institute even stronger procedures and penalties to deal with the perpetrators. Here there can be no compromise. We have failed too many. We must ensure the adequacy of our laws and legal system to protect our children and provide the support services for victims and their families, wherever and whenever necessary.


In order to ensure a meaningful and focused commemoration of the Year of the Child, and to allow us to address in a more targeted manner the issues impacting on our children, a Steering Committee comprising representatives of various ministries, non-governmental organizations and private individuals was established. The theme chosen for celebrating the Year is ‘Change Saint Lucia for the Children with the Children’. This theme is most appropriate, as it closely relates to that of the Global Movement and emphasizes the need for societies to give recognition to the voices of children and the need for their involvement in the decision making process on matters pertaining to them. Our children must no longer be voiceless, for they too are purveyors of wisdom. We must not try to silence them in the face of abuse; neither must we shut them up so as to cover up our failures and shortcomings.

With this in mind, numerous activities and projects have been selected, all of which are intended, in some way, to enhance the lives of our children.


During this Year of the Child, the area of Child Protection will be placed high on the agenda. One of the main activities will be the review of existing legislation to determine the deficiencies, with a view to removing them. Already, through the OECS Family Law & Domestic Violence, Legal and Judicial Reform, of which Saint Lucia is a part, many aspects of our laws pertaining to children and families are being addressed. The Criminal Code is being revised and the opportunity will be taken to include the necessary amendments, which will afford better protection to the nation’s children. In the new Criminal Code, we have made sure that there are no limitation barriers to the prosecution of cases of child abuse.

A Draft Protocol for the Prevention, Reporting, Investigation and Management of Child Abuse and Neglect has been prepared by the Division of Human Services and Family Affairs. This Protocol provides systematic guidelines and procedures to be followed by all agencies that provide services to children, including the police and medical personnel.

We recognize, however, that the existence of adequate legislation on its own will not prevent child abuse. The enforcement of existing legislation must be seen as a critical component of the process. We will significantly increase the public awareness campaign to prevent child abuse, which will be intensified even further when we join the international community during the month of April, 2004 in observing Child Abuse Awareness Month.

In addition, we will endeavour to provide additional resources to our social service agencies to better equip them to manage incidences of child abuse. This will, therefore, be a priority of the Government during this year. Moreover, the Government will examine the feasibility of providing a Transit Home for Children in difficult circumstances, so as to provide a place of safety for those who must be removed from their families for their protection. Such rehabilitative services shall also be extended to the Boys Training Centre.


Other activities have also been proposed which are designed to support families in caring for their children, and these will be elucidated during the course of the year. One such programme, for example, will be the National Parenting and Mentoring Programme.


While we should, during the year, focus attention on the many ills which impact negatively on the lives of our children, we must also celebrate their many successes. Too often, we dwell on what is bad, and forget or ignore that which is good. This year and beyond, let us try to be more balanced.

I firmly believe that the protection and encouragement of our children is not solely the responsibility of the Government, but that of all Saint Lucians. In this light, I would like to acknowledge and encourage the continued support of our social partners such as the Saint Lucia Chamber of Commerce and its Junior Achievers Programme, the RBTT and its Young Leaders Programme, and other useful ventures such as Cable and Wireless’ Star Quest. I believe that if we all play our part, we can create a better society for our children, where they are safe, are given every opportunity to enjoy their childhood, and are allowed to develop fearlessly to their fullest potential. I urge everyone, therefore, to join with us during this year to celebrate our children and to Change Saint Lucia for the Children with the Children.

Children, Ladies and Gentlemen, thank you and may God bless us all.


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