Funds to improve children’s rights on islands yield results

The 3 mil­lion euros the Dutch gov­ernment made available between 2015 and 2017 for projects to strengthen chil­dren’s rights in Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba have yielded positive results. There is much more aware­ness of children’s rights in schools and in the com­munity, children in vulner­able positions are getting assistance and children’s participation is increasing. Dutch State Secretary of Home Affairs and Kingdom Relations Raymond Knops stated this in a letter he sent to the Dutch Parliament last week.

Aside from children’s rights in education and a special Task Force that deals with this important subject, there are also tangible as­pects that contribute to chil­dren’s development, such as the pending installation of playground equipment in St. Eustatius and Saba.

The playgrounds in Saba needed maintenance and were destroyed during Hur­ricanes Irma and Maria. A part of the funds for chil­dren’s rights has been tied to the reconstruction funds and funds of the Dutch mental health service GGD and the Ministry of Public Health, explained Knops. Saba has ordered new play­grounds, so the children of the island will have a place to play within one year after the hurricanes.

Late 2017, the St. Eusta­tius government submitted a request for the financing of several activities that will improve children’s rights on the island. The GGD Haa­glanden is involved. The focus of these activities will be on the participation of children in social and cul­tural events, the renovation of the youth/community centre and the purchase of playground equipment. In April 2017, a policy co­ordinator children’s rights and tackling of domestic violence was appointed for St. Eustatius. partly cov­ered by the Dutch funds for children’s rights. It took some time for children’s rights initiatives to get off the ground in St. Eustatius due to the situation in gov­ernment, clarified the State Secretary.

The United Nations Chil­dren’s Fund UNICEF Neth­erlands has a fulltime repre­sentative on St. Eustatius to support the local govern­ment and organisations with capacity building know-how regarding the protection of children and children’s rights in general, to set up trainings and to assist with the execution of children’s rights-related activities. Also, in St. Eustatius a few years ago the Safety Net Group was established in which representatives of the youth care sector par­ticipate to look out for the needs of Statia children. With the assistance of Safe­ty Net Group and UNICEF Netherlands the Interna­tional Day for the Rights of the Child was celebrated in September 2016 and 2017. In Saba, a children’s rights and domestic violence proj­ect leader was appointed early 2016. In November 2016, Saba started with a children’s rights improve­ment programme, which in­cludes a budget for acute is­sues that threaten the rights of the child.

“The Saba government used this budget successful­ly a number of times which enabled quick action, for example in a household that had insufficient beds, the water tank had run empty, but also to provide support in protecting children in cases of domestic violence,” stated Knops.

Twice the Week of the Rights of the Child was held in Saba, whereby the local government coordi­nated various activities of stakeholders about chil­dren’s rights. The local government, together with UNICEF Netherlands, also organised activities for the schools on International Day for the Rights of the Child.

The Dutch government funds were further used to improve the after-school care and the day care. The after-school care has space for ten children growing up in poverty or living in an un­safe situation at home. The after-school care and day care receive a package with fruits and vegetables twice a week.

Another part of the chil­dren’s rights programme on Saba focused on sports. The Ministry of Public Health made funds available for a community sports coach, who uses the funds for the improvement of children’s rights to stimulate sports among the youth. Swimming lessons are organised, and the coach assists with sports days at the schools. “The funds have enabled the Saba government to better invest in the wellbe­ing of the island’s children and brought about devel­opments that were needed to better secure children’s rights,” stated Knops.

In September 2016, UNI­CEF Netherlands started children’s rights education at schools and with profes­sionals in St. Eustatius and Saba engaged in dialogues with religious leaders about the importance of upbring­ing without violence.

Children need to be able to develop into active citi­zens, whose opinion and in­put matters. Together with Missing Chapter Founda­tion, UNICEF Netherlands set up different Children’s Councils in the Caribbean Netherlands. Six Children’s Council trajectories were carried out in St. Eustatius and one in Saba.

The tackling of domestic violence is a vital part of the process to improve chil­dren’s rights on the islands. The local governments, with the assistance of the Dutch government, will focus on prevention and set up an easily-accessible hotline.
The Ministry of Justice and Security will facilitate a pi­lot to improve the tackling of domestic violence where it relates to the law enforce­ment sector.

The Dutch government has made an additional 1 mil­lion euro available for chil­dren growing up in poverty in the Caribbean Netherlands. These funds are espe­cially meant to aid in kind, so these children can par­ticipate in cultural activities or in sports, school or social activities.

Social organisations in Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba had until May 15 to submit their plans, for ex­ample by providing healthy food, swimming lessons or a music instrument for chil­dren whose parents cannot afford such.

The State Secretary con­cluded, based on the evalu­ation of the projects that were initiated to strengthen children’s rights, that the funds have contributed to this subject being placed high on the political agenda. “This impulse has resulted in the ministries taking their responsibility in the area of youth affairs in the Carib­bean Netherlands.”

The island governments have, despite their limited financial means, initiated several good trajectories. And, thanks to the efforts of UNICEF Netherlands, more awareness was cre­ated for children’s rights in the local communities.

“A large part of the com­munity was reached by en­gaging in round table talks with role models and reli­gious leaders. This has con­tributed to more awareness of parents about children’s rights, not only the right to education, but also the right of healthy eating and the right of a positive up­bringing without violence. Improving children’s rights starts at home,” stated Knops.

The State Secretary said it is imperative to preserve the efforts and to stay sharp on this subject, the further strengthening of the capac­ity to execute the tasks in youth affairs. A construc­tive cooperation has materi­alised with UNICEF Neth­erlands, not only in the form of children’s rights educa­tion and participation, but also in the form of the Task Force Children’s Rights.

The annual upbringing conference, organised by the Task Force with the par­ticipation of all six Dutch Caribbean islands, has proven a successful event where know-how is shared, and which has contributed to keep the subject high on the political agenda.

Knops confirmed he will keep supporting the Task Force Children’s Rights. He is looking at keeping UNI­CEF Netherlands engaged in the process of creating more awareness, increasing participation and strength­ening the capacity.

Together with UNICEF’s regional office in Barba­dos, UNICEF Netherlands is working on a proposal to carry out a Situational Analysis in the Caribbean Netherlands. “Tackling the causes and consequences of poverty among children and improving children’s rights requires a long-term ap­proach. I will sec to it that the children in the Caribbe­an Netherlands get the at­tention that they deserve.” Knops concluded his letter to Dutch Parliament.

The Daily Herald.

Last flight CN-Express to Bonaire on June 29th
Business Students of the Saba Comprehensive School Forms 3 & 4 to host pop-up movie theater.

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