Minister Clifton De Coteau speaks on the occasion of the Launch of the Break the Silence Campaign

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The Honourable Clifton De Coteau, Minister of Gender, Youth and Child Development speaks at the launch of the Break the Silence Campaign, on ending Child Sex Abuse

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Minister Clifton De Coteau speaks on the occasion of the Launch of the Break the Silence Campaign

  1. 1. MINISTRY OF GENDER, YOUTH AND CHILD DEVELOPMENT Remarks by The Honourable Clifton De Coteau Minister of Gender Youth and Child Development On the Occasion of the National Launch of the Break the Silence Campaign On Wednesday 15th January, 2014 Hyatt Regency Trinidad 1
  2. 2. Salutations  The Honourable Kamla Persad Bissessar, SC, Prime Minister of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago  Senator the Honourable Raziah Ahmed, Minister of State in the Ministry of Gender, Youth and Child Development  Mr. Richard Blewitt, United Nations Resident Co-ordinator  Ms. Khin-Sandi Lwin, UNICEF Representative to the Eastern Caribbean  Episkopus Archbishop Barbara Gray-Burke, Ark of the Covenant Spiritual Baptist Church  Brother Harrypersad Maharaj, President of the InterReligious Organisation  Dr. Rhoda Reddock, Deputy Principal, St Augustine Campus, University of the West Indies 2
  3. 3.  Ms. Hazel Brown, President of the Network of NGOs and Ministry of Gender, Youth and Child Development Special Envoy on Women and Gender Equity  Ms. Brenda Goopesingh, Ministry of Gender, Youth and Child Development Special Envoy on Women and Gender Equity  Mrs. Sandra Jones, Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Gender, Youth and Child Development  Mrs. Patricia Boyce-Diaz, Deputy Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Gender, Youth and Child Development  Mrs. Jennifer Johnson, President of the Trinidad and Tobago Girl Guide Association  Representatives of the Children’s Authority of Trinidad and Tobago  Members of the Child Protection Task Force 3
  4. 4.  Members of the Advisory Council on the National Strategic Plan for Child Development  Members of the Board of Management and Management of Children’s Homes  Representatives of Government Ministries  Representatives of the United Nations System in Trinidad and Tobago  Representatives of Civil Society Organisations, Faith Based Organisations and Non Governmental Organisations  Heads of Departments and staff of the Ministry of Gender, Youth and Child Development  Specially Invited Guests  Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen  Members of the Media 4
  5. 5. Good Morning, As the Minister of Gender, Youth and Child Development I take tremendous pleasure in addressing this august gathering for the National Launch of the “Break the Silence: End child sexual abuse” campaign, hosted in collaboration with the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF). It is our joint conviction that we must never waver in our efforts to safeguard the rights and needs of one of the most vulnerable groups in society, our children. The Break the Silence: end child sexual abuse campaign was one of the products of a 2008 comprehensive research programme spearheaded by the Institute of Gender and Development Studies at the University of the West Indies. The project was successfully completed in collaboration with the Trinidad and Tobago Coalition Against Domestic Violence and in partnership with UNICEF and the UN Trust Fund to End Violence Against Women. Other contributors included ChildLine, Toco Foundation, Arts-inAction, the Tobago House of Assembly and the Citizen’s Security Programme of the Ministry of National Security. 5
  6. 6. The work of the Institute of Gender and Development Studies and their invaluable collaborators laid the foundation for years of progress in advancing gender issues in the Caribbean and specifically in our beloved nation of Trinidad and Tobago. There are no words that can adequately express our immense gratitude for your labours, initiative and fearless commitment to our citizens. All I can say is thank you. Ladies and gentlemen, today we are promoting the Break the Silence campaign on a national, government-led level. This campaign is especially indispensible in treating with the issues of child sexual abuse and incest as it affects children, families and the wider society of Trinidad and Tobago. I assure you that the Ministry of Gender, Youth and Child Development is committed to safeguarding our nation’s children to facilitate the achievement of their full potential. We continue to implement multi- disciplinary and multi-sectoral approaches involving collaboration among Ministries, agencies, communities, families and children to provide meaningful and long-term care for all children. Our collaboration with UNICEF and all the service delivery agencies is part of our unremitting endeavours to progress child protection and 6
  7. 7. development within Trinidad and Tobago and to achieve our overarching goal for improved lifestyles for all our children. As we seek to afford equal care for and access to services for children of all socio-economic situations, we are ensuring that every boy and girl is happy, healthy and confident that their rights are respected, protected and promoted to facilitate their holistic development towards achieving their fullest potential as active contributors to society. Child development refers to the biological, psychological and emotional changes that occur in human beings between birth and the end of adolescence, as the individual progresses from dependency to increasing autonomy. It is a continuous process with a predictable sequence yet having a unique course for every child. Positive child development promotes and enhances the health, well-being and capacities of children, which is the driving force behind the National Strategic Plan for Child Development 2012-2016. The Plan caters to children aged 0 to 17 years and details the key priorities and their corresponding strategies and programmes to be implemented by the various Government agencies. 7
  8. 8. To facilitate the enhanced development of our nation’s children, the Government seeks to implement a robust child protection system. This system includes laws, legal processes, policies, regulations, and reporting mechanisms and the provision of comprehensive services to child victims. However, over the past few years, we have all borne witness to the insidious, criminal acts of child abuse that have given rise to the establishment of the Child Protection Task Force. Child abuse has an incredibly significant impact on children’s development mentally, socially and sometimes physically which can extend well into adulthood. Furthermore, behavioural problems and psychiatric disorders also develop which has a ripple effect on the family and by extension the community. In the fight to reduce and eradicate the incidence of child sexual abuse we are often times under-informed. Accurate statistics on the prevalence of child and adolescent sexual abuse are difficult to collect because of under-reporting and the clear understanding and definition of what constitutes such abuse. Over time, the reports of child sexual abuse have increased, as the public experiences heightened awareness of the issue and legislation has 8
  9. 9. continued to evolve to match the needs of the populace. In 2006, over a six-month period 165 cases of child sexual abuse were reported to the police. 85% related to violations of girls (16% were cases of incest). In 2013, the Trinidad and Tobago Police Service’s Victims and Witness Support Unit reported more than 200 reported cases of incest, rape and sexual abuse over the course of a three month period, for one of the nine regions in the country. Although this figure is horrendous, what is even more alarming is that this may not totally reflect the actual number of cases, as children are seldom willing to report the abuse. According to UNICEF, a 2012 publication entitled ‘Sexual Abuse’ by MaryLee Floric and Matthew Broyles indicated that reports to the police constitute less than 50 percent of all sexual assaults on children. This is a disquieting ratio that reflects a pronounced need to bolster the reporting mechanisms for child sexual abuse. This reluctance is due to their own personal sense of shame and guilt, manipulation or threat from the perpetrator and a real fear of being ignored or victimized. 9
  10. 10. Because of previous cultural trends deeming this issue taboo, children suffer from being voiceless. Compounding the silence of our victims is the silence of family members, care-givers, neighbors, community members and other persons in authority. In a 2008-2009 study on Child Sexual Abuse in the Eastern Caribbean, UNICEF found that violence is often perpetuated by non-abusing adults through their complicity, silence, and denial of not taking appropriate action to protect children. This study revealed that there was a high percentage of non-abusive partners who turned a “blind eye” to victims within their own family. Ladies and gentlemen, it is based on these figures that the Government is exploring all avenues to create an enabling environment for children to speak out and have on-going support throughout their development. Kenneth Carroll "Kenny" Guinn was an American businessman, educator and politician who spoke out against child abuse and encouraged better Government systems to treat with this societal scourge. He stated: The best service to the child is the service closest to the child, and children who are victims of neglect, abuse, or abandonment. They must not also be victims of bureaucracy. They deserve our devoted attention, not our divided attention. 10
  11. 11. To guarantee that children receive our undivided attention, the Ministry of Gender, Youth and Children has entered into effective partnerships with international, regional and local organisations to ensure that children are not left voiceless, but are clearly heard regardless of age, gender or socioeconomic status. The Breaking the Silence campaign is once such initiative. Guided by the Declaration on the Rights of the Child the campaign reflects the fulfilment of the rights and responsibilities of children that state:  Every child has the right to speak about things which affect them; and  Every child is responsible for telling their parents (or a figure in authority) what is happening to and around them. In 2014, the nation will see the implementation of a National Children’s Registry which will provide a more efficient method of monitoring child development and assist service providers in quickly identifying children in need of specialized support. This will also be invaluable in reducing the duplication of services and improving communication among practitioners. As my esteemed colleague, Dr. Bhoe Tewarie, Minister of Planning and Sustainable Development, stated yesterday, adults are largely responsible 11
  12. 12. for the abuse of children. Thus, we have to treat very explicitly with abusers and the non-abusers who perpetuate an environment of fear and subjugation. Sadly, the heart wrenching reality is that child sexual abuse is not only perpetrated by adults, but by other children who themselves were victims of abuse. For this vicious cycle to truly be thwarted, we must break the silence! We must reach out to the victims and their families with a message to speak out and denounce, to break the stigma and shame that surrounds the issues of child sexual abuse as a first step to seek help. The Government recognises its responsibility to support families on various levels, from financial stability to emotional well-being. Thus we continue to work assiduously to refine legislation and service delivery to treat with all cases of child abuse and reduce the surge in new attacks. To address the home life, where most cases of child abuse originate, the National Parenting Programme will offer support to targeting parent, parents to be, caregivers and guardians. Not only are we heavily engaged in public sensitization and raising awareness of the social issues and avenues for support and rehabilitation, 12
  13. 13. but the Government continues to implement other initiatives that provide a continuum of support for the children of our nation which include:  The introduction of the new package of legislation promoting the rights of children, inclusive of the Children Act, 2012; the Children’s Authority Act and the Children’s Community Residences, Foster Care and Nurseries Act, 2000.  Foster Care and Adoption to provide support, protection and the opportunity to acquire appropriate care from a person or family through child welfare services or a court order.  Subventions to Children’s Residences, where children removed from abusive or other situations are placed in and receive quality care for their basic and developmental needs.  Vacation Camps are hosted annually for children aged 3 to 11 and 12 to 17 years, exposing children to out of school curricula inclusive of social skills and personal development; and providing a safe, learning and stimulating environment during the school break.  Free counselling for children and families across the nation is provided by the National Family Services Division. The Ministry also partners with first responders such as ChildLine and the Trinidad and Tobago Police Service’s Victims and Witness Support Unit. 13
  14. 14.  The National Youth Policy 2012-2017 was developed for youth between the ages of 12 and 29, to facilitate youth development and empowerment on a national level. The Ministry continues to swell the ranks of its cadre of social workers and bolster its support staff through technical training. Beyond the actual staff, a critical part of the process is our robust monitoring and evaluation system that ensures that our efforts are not in vain and we are actually achieving our objectives. Additionally, the Ministry simultaneously seeks to break the silence by highlighting the positive changes that children are effecting in their communities and nationwide.  The National Youth Awards are hosted annually to celebrate the accomplishments of our youth, aged 12 to 29 years old in a variety of spheres.  In November 2013, the Ministry collaborated with UNICEF and published the Children Who Inspire newspaper pull-out in commemoration of Universal Children’s Day. The Publication highlighted the achievements of children between the ages of 0-17 14
  15. 15. who have contributed to the development of their community, school etc. Ladies and gentlemen, we must Break the Silence on child sexual abuse! The time has long since come for us to change the old adage that a ‘child should be seen and not heard’. Children have a right to be heard and believed. The Break the Silence Campaign is one such measure to ensure that our children have an avenue to speak about a hurtful subject, and adequate protection when they speak out. As we continue to engage our invaluable stakeholders, many of whom are gathered here today, I encourage us all to work diligently to fulfil our obligations. Whether it is through enforcement or programme policy development, legislation implementation, every person, every contribution is integral for our collective success. I know that with unfailing dedication to service we will reap timeless rewards in ensuring a better future for our children. Thank you. 15

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