Do the right thing Jamaica; Stand up for the children.
On Tuesday, November 10, 2009 Observer columnist Betty Ann Blaine started her piece entitled Things fall Apart with the statement "It seems to me that optimism is becoming the scarcest commodity in Jamaica these days". This week, November 8 – 14, the Sunset Optimist Club of Liguanea, will have been one of over 2000 optimist clubs across the world marking Youth Appreciation Week 2009 and by extension bringing hope and positive vision to the young people of this world. From all indication, it is not only the clubs in Jamaica that are faced with this seeming hopelessness. Data published by the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child continue to show that children from all over the world are at risk especially as it relates to violence against them.
Certainly, the Jamaican situation needs urgent attention. Recent memory recalls that in 2005 Miss Blaine’s organization, Hear the Children’s Cry launched a campaign called “Are the Children OK?” This was a response to the worrying levels of crime against our children and by extension the future of the Jamaican society. In that same year 91 children were murdered according to UNICEF reports. The following year at a Gleaner Editor’s Forum Miss Blaine warned, "This country is in a crisis as far as our children are concerned and the sexual violence against our children." In early 2008 Prof. Paulo Pinheiro, author of the 2006 UN Secretary-General’s Study on Violence against Children, reminded the Jamaican parliament that “In an environment where violence breeds more violence, the ways in which Jamaican children are subjected to violence are inextricably linked to the unrelenting levels of crime and violence affecting the island”. The CNN too, in January 2009 was weighing in on what they termed a dramatic increase of child abuse in Jamaica, making specific reference to the Office of Children Registry receiving 3,784 reports in 2008 compared to 425 in 2007. Additionally, the emotional stress associated with the increasingmissing children cases over the last few months cannot be denied.
We hope therefore that the safety and security of our nation’s children will be given significant attention in the strategy outlined recently by Acting Commissioner of Police, Owen Ellington. Our young people cannot be raised in a society void of hope, lacking in opportunities and without the requisite support for upliftment. The people in whom we have entrusted the responsibility for the protection and care of our children must present a clear vision, practical goals, and specific objectives against which some form of meaningful evaluation of their stewardship may be done. The 2G conflict - gully vs. gaza - is only a small manifestation of the gaping hole in which we have allowed our children and young people to fall. It is only natural for us to worry about the state of affairs, but as an optimist, I cannot afford to see every dark hole as a cave for blindness or a pit of serpents from which to run. These dark moments should rather be treated as openings to tunnels waiting to be channeled towards the light, wells ready to be tapped into springs of goodness, hope and prosperity, and chances to embrace the power and love of the big G – God.
The Sunset Optimist Club of Liguanea calls on all well-thinking Jamaicans to speak out and defend the right of our children and young people to a safe and secure environment in which they can “dream the impossible dream” and live in hope of their dreams being realized. On November 19 when peoples from across the globe mark World Day for the Prevention of Child Abuse it is our wish that as a country we will awake from our depths of denial and defensiveness and stand up for our children. It is time for Jamaica to do the right thing: protect our children from the various forms of violence with which they currently live; use the many pieces of legislation at our disposal to ensure that our young people live in an environment conducive to fulfilling their true potential; and importantly, provide them with hope, optimism, and possibilities of a healthy future.
After all, it is in our own interest to guarantee our children that right.
President Patrick (Prendergast)
Sunset Optimist Club of Liguanea