Stakeholders come together to shine light on Child Abuse
Port of Spain, Trinidad, May 9, 2017
Every child in this country is special and valued, and during the recently concluded National Child Abuse Prevention Month, the Gender and Child Affairs Division of the Office of the Prime Minister (OPM) partnered with bmobile to urge the national community to remain alert and engaged in recognising, reporting and stopping child abuse.
The Gender and Child Affairs Division implemented a text message campaign in collaboration with bmobile that reached over 160,000 persons in Trinidad and Tobago and highlighted where victims of abuse can call for aid.
Commenting about initiatives to make it safer for children and easier for them to seek help, Minister of State in the OPM Ayanna Webster-Roy said, “I want the children of T&T to know that your government, your leaders are working for you. You are important to us. You are our most valuable asset. Regardless of your circumstances now, regardless of your station in life, know that we are committed to putting the right services in place to help you achieve your full potential. You are special. You are loved.”
She urged children who were troubled or abused to take action and speak to a trusted relative, teacher or someone in authority, or the Children’s Authority or the police. She also urged adults and children to refrain from cyberbullying, stressing that its harmful impact could last a lifetime.
Development of a National Child Policy; establishing a National Child Registry; teaching parents and communities how to recognise the signs of bullying and abuse; teaching children about their rights, responsibilities and who to turn to for help; and providing counselling and parenting advice to parents and guardians are just some of the initiatives being pursued by the Government to protect and serve children. The Gender and Child Affairs Division is also working with local and international agencies to improve services to children in Trinidad and Tobago.
According to a report from the Children’s Authority, from May 2015 to December 2016, it received almost 9,000 reports of abuse. “We all have a role to protect our children from perpetrators of abuse and nurture children in an environment that encourages their development,” the Authority noted in a press release last month.
Endorsing the sentiment that preventing child abuse is everyone’s business and requires everyone to do their part, TSTT’s VP of Mobile Services, Chevon Wilson, believes much more could be done through social media and mobile communications. He said, “TSTT is deeply concerned about protecting and nurturing the youth of the nation. Every day, our nation’s young people use our technology as part of routine social transactions, and so mobile communications is a viable medium through which important information can be shared. Technology is not just about using a cellphone camera and social media. It can be a lifesaving tool for a child in need of help.”
He further added, “With so many people, even children, having access to a cell phone, there is a huge, untapped potential for using social media and mobile devices to detect and report child abuse, to promote awareness about child abuse and cyberbullying, to provide easily understood and easily accessible information to children themselves, and even to provide parenting resources and assistance to persons who might themselves be abusers and want to stop. TSTT is ready to help the relevant Ministries and non-government organisations utilise the vast potential of mobile technology to minimise incidents of child abuse.”
Anyone who suspects a child is being abused or neglected can call the ChildLine hotline at 131; the Children’s Authority at 996, or make a report to the police at 999. Persons can also go online and download a Children’s Services Directory: “Reach Out: A Guide to Child Friendly Services” and a Child Rights Booklet: “My Book of Rights & Responsibilities” from the Office of the Prime Minister’s website (www.opm-gca.gov.tt/), for further information.