Round-table discussions on UNICEF Children’s Rights

The Daily Herald writes that Regional Director of United Nations Children’s Fund UNICEF and expert on children’s rights Nils Kassberg hosted a roundtable discussion day Friday at Eugenius Johnson Centre in Windwardside. The aim was to create more awareness about child abuse and to start working on a programme to tackle the issue on Saba in the near future.
The local churches give plenty attention to this issue already, but according to Island Governor Jonathan Johnson, it is important to broaden the approach and create a more structured solution. Johnson’s role is to facilitate and keep in direct contact with Kassberg in the future, as this was just a first step in a much larger design.

Kassberg talked about worldwide child abuse and ways to solve the issue. “Child abuse affects all countries in the world. It is hard for countries to present and examine the problem as no country wants to be listed as child-unfriendly, although this attitude just creates more problems,” explained Kassberg. According to him a “worldwide floor of rights” has to be established. “Before the age of 20, 37 per cent of boys and 44 per cent of girls in the Caribbean have had at least one experience of sexual abuse,” Kassberg stated. “The youngest grandmother in the world is 26 years old and lives in Jamaica.”
After Kassberg’s speech, attendants sat in three groups and discussed ways to create points of action on how to proceed with this ongoing project. Among attendants were representatives from government, educational institutions and several churches.

In 2013, UNICEF presented the “Child on Saba” report. One of the conclusions was a lack of coordination on how to handle the issues. Another point of interest was the creation of more aware ness among the general public. “Because abuse is not addressed and, therefore, not solved, it may continue for generations,” was Kassberg’s opinion. Governor Johnson stated that one of the big challenges is how to address the issues to the parents in a non-confrontational way. “It’s important that this is a bottom-up approach. It comes from the community, instead of legislation that is implemented by politicians,” Johnson said. He also stated that it is important to give families a sense of purpose and to give them the space to grow.

Kassberg added that social internships, such as community service, are a great way to unlock this sense of purpose at a young age. Nicole van Kimmenade, who is currently on Saba for a six-month traineeship from the Dutch government, organized the event. “This was a fruitful day. I am so pleased to see that everyone is willing to participate in making Saba a safer place for children,” she concluded.

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