Prime Minister, the Most Hon. Andrew Holness, says there is a need to act with urgency to address the issue of violence against children.
“The Government is very disturbed by the violence that is affecting the children of our country… . All forms of violence against children are unacceptable,” he said, as he addressed a special Parliamentary session on violence against children at Gordon House today (November 19).
The session was organised by United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), Jamaica, in collaboration with the Office of the Children’s Advocate and the Ministry of Education, Youth and Information.
Students were given the opportunity to express themselves on the issue of violence to the nation’s leaders, raise public awareness of the National Plan of Action for an Integrated Response to Children and Violence (NPACV) and call for its urgent implementation.
Prime Minister Holness noted that violence has become too much a part of the country’s culture as a means of resolving conflict.
“We must get it right, as we cannot allow violence to continue to destroy our children, families, communities and overall quality of life that Jamaicans aspire to,” he said.
He noted that a few years ago, Jamaica was designated as a Pathfinding country under the Global Partnership to End Violence against Children, which obligates the country to take accelerated action to reduce and prevent violence against children.
“I called on my Government to participate in the development of a comprehensive, coordinated and multisectoral plan to prevent and reduce violence against children,” Mr. Holness said.
“Thanks to the hard work of the Ministry of Education, Youth and Information, with support from UNICEF, we have a newly updated National Plan of Action for an Integrated Response to Children and Violence, and a road map to put it into action,” he added.
The Prime Minister informed that the NPACV will be officially launched at an event on November 19.
“The successful implementation of the plan is a critical element of this. This is not a plan that will sit on the shelves somewhere; it is a plan that must be implemented in a timely and efficient manner and it must be actioned urgently,” he said.
Mr. Holness informed that the Plan considers the various underlying issues that make children vulnerable to violence and identifies meaningful interventions that can be taken to prevent or minimise the incidence of violence.
He further noted that the Plan emphasises the need for collaboration among multiple stakeholders and includes a monitoring and evaluation framework to ensure greater accountability.
“The framework for monitoring and evaluation is of great importance, as too often emphasis is not placed on monitoring and evaluation, and as a result we are unable to definitively know if what has been implemented has met our goals and expectation,” Mr. Holness said.
He also reiterated the Government’s commitment to protect the nation’s children from all forms of violence and exploitation.
In her remarks, UNICEF Representative in Jamaica, Mariko Kagoshima, said her organisation is deeply concerned about the scope and impact of the violence that Jamaican children face every day in their homes, schools and communities.
She noted that in 2018, 46 children were killed, while from the start of 2019 to the 14th of November, 41 children were murdered.
She also expressed concern about two of the most widespread forms of violence against Jamaican children – violent discipline and sexual violence.
“UNICEF stands ready to support the Government of Jamaica, as well as Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) and civil society partners, to address these significant challenges with greater urgency,” Ms. Kagoshima said.
Other participants included Leader of the Opposition, Dr. Peter Phillips; Children’s Advocate, Diahann Gordon Harrison; Executive Director of the Global Partnership to End Violence against Children, Dr. Howard Taylor; and students, Ngozi Wright, Tafari Wright, Keino King, and Shaneille Hall.