"Continue to make children’s issues a priority!"

??Barbados’ Acting Minister of Education and Human Resource Development, Esther Byer Suckoo, today told regional delegates to do just this as they worked to develop the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) Multi-Country Programme for the Eastern Caribbean 2012-2016. She was at the time addressing the start of UNICEF consultations at the Lloyd Erskine Sandiford Centre, under the theme: "Visioning Equity for Children for 2012 and Beyond".??

Underscoring the fact that children would be the ones to manage the future, Dr. Byer Suckoo said: "Our quest is to forge partnerships in meeting our aims to respond to and help our girls, our boys and their families to achieve and reach their potential in this region. Caribbean governments are extremely welcoming of all the technical and financial support that has been given by UNICEF and its partners.

"And, we extend an invitation to more private sector entities to come on board, to help us realise our objectives through our social programmes to bring about the maximum benefits to all citizens, in particular our children."

Delegates were further told that all sectors had a role to play. The Acting Minister added: "Indeed, all social agencies, the financial agencies, all our ministries and departments, must make children’s issues a priority. It cannot just be limited to one ministry, one department or just to the social ministries. I know everyone here working in a social ministry of Government knows the challenges that they face.

"Certainly, within our system when you go to Ministries of Finance to try to secure funding for social programmes, they never seem to attract the kind of financing [that is needed]. That is why it has to be a priority, not just of the social agencies or social ministries, but it has to become a priority at the level of Cabinet and at the ministries."

Dr. Byer Suckoo also highlighted a number of initiatives done jointly with UNICEF in Barbados, among these the Health and Family Life Education Curriculum; the Schools Positive Behaviour Management Programme (formerly Child Friendly School initiative), and two current studies on learning disabilities and special needs education. And, she disclosed that as part of making children a priority, Barbados had addressed legislation regarding human trafficking, not only concerning adult men and women. ??

She explained: "We are seeing now more than ever that human trafficking is an issue, [and] a concern for our children and that increasingly they are becoming victims sometimes for?? very heinous reasons – ??[for example] to involve them in prostitution; in drugs.

"Indeed, we know that while Barbados does not have a major issue with child labour, we have seen some reports that there are incidents of the worst forms of child labour in Barbados, involving children in drugs (and using children as messengers, delivery persons and lookout persons). We see that children are being involved in sex and prostitution and certainly, reports that even in areas of tourism where children are being offered as partners of tourists and these are things we have to address.

Countries were told not to wait for a study to be completed in the next 10 years to report this issue. Dr. Byer Suckoo observed: "If we hear even anecdotal evidence that it is happening in our region, we have to address it. So, I want to exhort you as you work on your multi-country programme 2012-2016 to continue to make children and children’s issues a priority. They are the ones who will manage not only their future but they are the ones who will manage our futures. So, we indeed have an interest in looking out for our children."????????????????

UNICEF’s Multi-Country Programme, among participating countries, aims to improve the situation of children and women.?? It also seeks and to further their cooperation in support of the rights of children expressed in the Convention on the Rights of the Child, and the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women.??


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