The Caribbean Mentorship Institute has joined the public outcry about the number of violent deaths of young children in the region. The recent call to curb and eradicate violence against children should warrant immediate educational programs for Caribbean youth. The Institute believes that greater protection for young children should be promoted to realise their right to live free from violence and the fear of violence.
A UNICEF report dated 2014, on Violence against Children, states that violence disproportionately affects children, either directly or indirectly. Violence by young people is extremely visible, and most of the perpetrators, as well as most of the victims, of violent crimes are male adolescents or youths. Youth violence affects not only the victims, but also their families, friends and communities, and the effects are not only death or injury, but also negative psychological outcomes, poorer quality of life, reduced productivity and generally disrupted societies.
The report adds that “only Jamaica has laws relating to the mandatory reporting of child abuse and neglect. Instituting such laws needs to be carefully considered by other countries in the region and the necessary resources need to be made available to ensure children can be provided with appropriate and effective services to prevent further abuse and to mitigate the serious consequences of child abuse. Clear procedures for the reporting of child abuse and wide dissemination of these procedures should also be instituted. NGOs and civil society entities should be allowed to file charges against perpetrators of violence.”
The President of the Mentoring Institute, Ms. Felicia Browne, adds that “violence affects many youth in our communities. Our civil and governmental organisations should continue to promote the rights of children and youth within in the Caribbean. In many cases, they become victims of violent crimes like child-trafficking and child murder. It is reported that “47% of children in Guyana knew someone who had been killed, 60% of 9-17 year old children in Jamaica reported that a family member had been a victim of violence and 37% had a family member who had been killed. In studies from Jamaica, only 28% of children thought their home neighbourhood was very safe and 33% were afraid of someone in their community or yard, while in Belize, 40% of children felt unsafe on the streets.”
“There is a pattern,” Browne adds, “by which young victims are being preyed upon by the perpetrators of various crimes. We must do something to safeguard their lives. We should educate them on personal safety, and their right to live free from violence. We must start with our schools and communities advocating and implementing the rights of children.”
Browne believes that national mentoring programs should be implemented in Caribbean countries to foster a healthy, living environment for youth. Mentoring will give them a sense of community belonging and safety.