Today, Barbados joins the international community in celebrating the United Nations “International Day of Families”. We do so, mindful of the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on all sectors of our society and in particular, the adverse effects it has had on families. Under this year’s theme “Families and New Technologies”, this pandemic is a stark reminder that technology has now become the primary medium by which we have to work, communicate and educate our children.
Whilst the pandemic has signalled new shifts in the way business is conducted, it has also threatened to dramatically shape the way that individuals and families interact. It is a “brave new world” with new habits and trends such as social and physical distancing, the wearing of masks, constant sanitising and the development of large scale vaccination programmes for countries throughout the world.
Education is delivered remotely, with many parents working from home to facilitate continuous learning, whilst simultaneously maintaining their households and ensuring that the mental and physical well-being of themselves and their children are addressed.
As virtual communication becomes the norm, we are cognisant of the fact that many of the less fortunate lack the financial and technological resources necessary to continue their education. This period is indeed a significant test for those families that already face special challenges such as relationship difficulties, or are at risk of violence, conflict and abuse.
However, in spite of the challenges, we must remain confident that there will be a better and brighter tomorrow. My Government will continue to advance the vaccination campaign, to protect and safeguard our population. We will continue to work with the private sector and civil society, to ensure that the needs of the most vulnerable in society are met and we will strive to ensure that appropriate measures and policies are urgently put in place, to further stimulate economic activity.
We fully accept that virtual platforms now connect us to any corner of the universe. Yet we must recognise that there is a difference between virtual and in person contact. With the limiting of visits to care facilities, persons who are already isolated and vulnerable are severely affected.
There is also the challenge of loneliness, for those who actively participated in social events in pre-COVID times. Nobody should be left alone or without support and we must periodically reach out to all of our friends, family and neighbours, to maintain that human touch and connection, that we all need.
Social protection and inclusion are key to the goals of my Ministry. As we celebrate this important event at this critical time of our lives, armed with the knowledge that technology will be a vital tool for communication, we must ensure that the unprecedented challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic are duly addressed and overcome, in order to build a society that is fit for us all.
Happy International Day of Families to Barbados!
Minister of People Empowerment and Elder Affairs, Cynthia Forde