Theme: “A Better Future for Every Child”
Hon Wendy C. Phipps
Acting Minister of Social Development & Gender Affairs
Saturday, November 20, 2021
World Children’s Day is being celebrated by all United Nations (UN) Member States today, Saturday, November 20, 2021. Once again, St. Kitts and Nevis joins the global community in observing this international event which, this year, is being held under the theme: “A Better Future for Every Child”.
World Children’s Day is an annual opportunity for global citizens to stop whatever they are doing and ponder, reflect, study and lobby for the rights of our children. Children, by their very nature, their delicate age and their innocence, are a special class of individuals who are unable to protect themselves. Here is where we come in as adults, as parents, guardians, teachers, elders, government and civic leaders, to give our children the coverage and protection they deserve and so desperately need. Too many children in our world are confronted with daily struggles of insecurity, hunger, homelessness, fear, worry, child labour, neglect, malnutrition, and general poor health and illness. These are things which young minds should not have to worry over at that age – an age in which they should be enjoying their youth, their innocence, their learning opportunities, and their discovery of the wonderful, natural world in which they live.
Our Federal Ministry of Social Developmentand Gender Affairs is cognizant of the challenges confronted by our young people aged 18 years old and under. The Ministry is concerned about the status of our Nation’s children and, as such, has taken the deliberate decision to use the occasion of World Children’s Day 2021 to shine the spotlight on child abuse and its elimination – if we are to live up to this year’s theme of securing “A Better Future for Every Child”.
Before I proceed further into this brief address it is best that I define, in simple terms, what the Ministry means by child abuse. The Ministry – along with the Special Victims Unit (SVU) of the Royal St. Christopher and Nevis Police Force – classify child abuse as harm that is done to a child, by an adult, in any of the following ways:❖ Neglect;❖ Physical Abuse;❖ Psychological Abuse; and ❖ Sexual Abuse.
Every one of these crimes against children occur in every country – and St. Kitts and Nevis is no exception. In many instances of abuse, children are silent victims who are too afraid to say what they are being subjected to, by the very adults in their lives who are responsible for their care and protection. Thankfully, there are State agencies specifically mandated to advocate for the rights of these vulnerable children. Here in St. Kitts and Nevis, that State agency is the Probation and Child Welfare Board, whose members work tirelessly to address, arrest and prevent wherever possible, issues of child abuse and endangerment, while doing all in their power to bring the perpetrators to justice. I wish to use this opportunity to commend the Chairman of the Probation and Child Welfare Board, Mr Maurice Williams, the rest of the Board, as well as the staff of the Department of Probation and Child Protection Services for their selfless service and dedication towards the mission of helping to keep our children safe and seeking justice on their behalf.
A quick glance at our national statistics on child abuse illustrates that between 2017 and 2019 there were some 303 cases of child abuse, with the victims ranging from 0 to 17 years of age. Moreover, in every instance there were far more female victims of child abuse than male victims. This tells me that as a Nation, we have to do a much better job at protecting our girls. To be precise, for the total documented cases of child abuse between 2017 and 2019, some 68% of the victims have been girls while 32% of the victims were males. Across the complete 0 to 17 year age range, for all forms of child abuse, the data is as follows:
|ABUSE TYPE||MALE VICTIMS||FEMALE VICTIMS||TOTAL|
Everyone should be in agreement that this data is not only shocking but shameful. It should also be painfully obvious that these national statistics need to be reversed, in quick order, through education; development of proper parenting/guardianship skills; respect and genuine love for children; prompt, impartial prosecution of offenders; and stiff penalties that form a deterrent to other offenders who may wish to commit similar crimes against children. We are never safe in this Country where child abuse is concerned, until all children are free from child abuse and the threat of child abuse!
It would be remiss of me if on today’s celebration of World Children’s Day that I do not remind all citizens and residents of the proud, long and pro-active history of our Country when it comes to the advocacy for children’s rights. To be precise, St. Kitts and Nevis has the distinction of being one of the first UN Member States to ratify the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) shortly after its confirmation by the UN General Assembly. The CRC was adopted by the UN on November 20, 1989, which was also the 30th Anniversary of the UN’s Declaration of the Rights of the Child. Our Federation would have become a signatory to the Convention on January 26, 1990 – with full ratification coming just six (6) months later.
It should be noted that now, 31 years after our ratification of the CRS, the Ministry of Social Development is in the process of acceding to at least two of the three Optional Protocols that have been developed for the advancementof the CRC. These protocols are based on the following:1) Prohibition of the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography; and2) A Communications procedure insofar as the application of the CRC is concerned.
Due to Covid-19 restrictions, the Ministry of Social Development will not be organizing a week of activities around the observance of World Children’s Day. Nevertheless, the Ministry encourages all citizens and residents to come onboard with spreading awareness about World Children’s Day while shining the flood light on the issue of child abuse and its eradication.
We encourage everyone to wear something blue on World Children’s Day as a show of solidarity with the children of our universe. Your donning of blue apparel will be a strong show of support for children’s rights. Persons who are also “tech savvy” can also change their social media /online profile picture to something blue, in order to help spread awareness to the rights of children, the plight of some children, and the imperative to advocate for safety, security, peace, health and wellness of ALL children the world over. As we do this, we will be making our own contribution to advocacy for “A Better Future for Every Child” – both here in St. Kitts and Nevis, and throughout