All children in the region are vulnerable and every effort must be made to ensure that they are safe and protected.

This was a key message conveyed by all who addressed the launch of the West Indies Cricket Board (WICB)/UNICEF???s Fair Play Initiative – Child Protection In Youth Cricket Programmes, last evening at the Accra Beach Hotel.

Minister of Education Science, Technology and Innovation, Ronald Jones, commended the initiative which was launched on the eve of the start of Child Month and the third test match at Kensington Oval.

He said: ???In our region we know that not every child carries a smile on his/her face; not every child carries the love that is so necessary within that child???s heart because somebody somewhere has done something to that child somewhere.???

Referring to the Fair Play Coaching Manual, he said it was a necessary document which looked at keeping children safe and protected from harm and predator elements.?????That exists! Don???t let us pretend that there are not predator elements around us??? that exist within our space and whose every intention is to cause harm!??? stressed Mr. Jones.

The Minister added that coaching was an intimate act where people came close to each other but though challenging, there was discipline to be observed. He said that what was set out in the manual could also be adopted or adapted for use within our classrooms, as engaged or involved persons must do something to protect our young people.

Chief Executive Officer of the WICB, Michael Muirhead said, the Board was proud to partner with UNICEF to bridge the gap between child protection and cricket especially as the WICB renewed its commitment towards cricket in primary and secondary schools and clubs.

???Coaches of today must be good communicators, motivators, managers, organisers, leaders, counsellors, students and more importantly good role models. It is our coaches??? responsibility to ensure and promote safe, abuse-free cricketing environments where they themselves understand the do’s and don???ts of child abuse in order to protect our children and themselves.???, he said

Pointing out that the Fair Play initiative would serve as a prerequisite for coaches in youth cricket, regionally, he remarked: ???This is to ensure that all our coaches in the region have the capacity and are equipped to deal with and avoid child abuse incidents and also allowing them to have a relationship with their local child protection agencies as they report incidents and have direct support if necessary.???

Meanwhile, Deputy Representative of UNICEF, Muriel Mafico noted the initiative fitted with their ???day-to-day raison d???etre??? to ensure that countries realise the rights of children. ???We realise the power of sports. Sports transcends languages??? It is a unifying game??? and it is for this reason that we partnered with the WICB,??? she said.

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