The response from a recent child abuse two-day seminar held in Antigua has been overwhelmingly positive.
It was co-organised by Felicia Robinson, the programme manager of the Child Protection Programme in the British Overseas Territories. She works out of offices in Grand Cayman and Barbados.
The seminar at the Jolly Beach Resort near St John’s was for countries from the BOTs – Anguilla, BVI, Cayman Islands and Montserrat. Yet media outlets throughout the Caribbean have contacted Mrs Robinson and her colleagues with positive feedback.
‘We’ve had a great response from journalists across the region. We’ve tracked the responses and articles and it has helped us evaluate the impact of the workshop. It has helped to promote the issues. We’ve also had as a spinoff from that enquiries from other jurisdictions that are not BOTs – including the US Virgin Islands – enquiring on the scope of the programme and also some of the interventions that we promote within the child protection programme in dealing with the issue of child abuse. So that has been an unanticipated output as a result of the workshop.
‘We’ve had a lot of follow up from the participants overall. For example, we’ve had follow up meetings and when they looked at last week’s Caricom Youth Day a lot of them chose to incorporate something from the workshop.
‘We are hoping that they will take all this on board on 20 November, which is Universal Children’s Day, which is globally the 18th birthday of the United Nations Convention in the Rights of the Child. This really is a wonderful opportunity for the media to be involved in highlighting the issue of children’s rights but also to help stimulate some critical assessment as to how far societies have come in not only promoting of children’s rights but achieving the rights that they signed up to.’
Mrs. Robinson added that all the BOTs submitted reports on their progress in achieving these rights last year to the UK government and the full UK report includes summary reports for the BOTs. It is now publicly available and can be sourced on www.everychildmatters.gov.uk.
‘Essentially it captures the progress over the last five years. The outstanding things that still need to be addressed obviously are that territories need to improve the data. The issue of data becomes particularly important when you’re trying to assess or to speak of the prevalence rate or to determine how serious child abuse is. Globally, the statistics, which are available are usually underestimated because of stigma, shame and under reporting. We have to accept that not every child that is being abused or at risk from being abused tends to get reported. Data tends to be significantly underestimated.
‘We have been encouraging all of the territories to enhance their data collection system and collaboratively share the information so that they can start to get a truer picture of prevalence rates.’
She is appreciative of the help of the Hedge Fund Care, a separate initiative through the business sector that supports the programme by fundraising in Grand Cayman. They provided $270,000 last year. ‘While the Child Protection Programme is supported by Department of International Development UK there are other local initiatives like the Hedge Fund Care for Cayman which also provides financial support for programming in child abuse.’
Mrs. Robinson is concerned by the increase in sexual incidence cases, particularly with girls.
‘The number of boys who are being neglected seems to be more prevalent than sexual abuse cases. The girls have a higher number of sexual abuse cases. Whether or not it is that men usually don’t talk about experiences of being sexually abuse, but we do know that boys are sexually abused.’
Child abuse has always been a problem in all societies. Mrs Robinson has seen an increase in workload for child abuse specialists in Cayman.
‘All of the service providers who work within the area of abuse, management and prevention, can tell you that their work has not decreased. And on that alone you will know that it is still a problem. As long as they are working on the issue it means that legitimately it still is a problem.
‘This is not to say that the interventions are not effective, it may well be that with increased public awareness, people are coming forward and taking on a greater responsibility in reporting and bringing forward the concerns of children. But from our point of view it is a significant problem. We don’t underestimate the value of even one child being abused. If one child is being abused it is a problem because the state has a responsibility to ensure that all children are protected. Protecting children remains a big issue for policy makers and practitioners.’