Wed | Nov 22, 2017

Asonika Carpenter | Saving the children, saving Jamaica

Published:Saturday | May 13, 2017 | 12:00 AMAsonika Carpenter
Children lay roses at the monument in memory of Jamaica’s children who have died under tragic/violent circumstances. The monument is sited at at the corner of Tower and Church streets in downtown Kingston.
Sylvia Chrominska, chair of the Scotia Group, carefully positions a floral tribute at the memorial of children killed in tragic circumstances at the downtown Kingston site in April. The monument, completed in 2008, depicts the face of a crying child and has the names of children who have died tragically inscribed on its base. Chrominska visited the monument along with other Scotiabank executives, Debra Lopez-Spence (left), vice-president, retail; and Monique Todd (centre), vice-president, marketing, public and corporate affairs, as part of a wider tour that included visiting customers, and making presentations at the King Street branch. Chrominksa was on the island to be part of Scotiabank's 125th anniversary celebrations.
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This headline forced me to reflect on our island and forced me to evaluate my childhood. Can I tell you that I am scared. I no longer enjoy walks in the park? I'm scared to even play. I have lost peers to violence. I've lost family members to crime, and, yes, I see the many faces across the media who have gone missing.

Is this the Jamaica you want your children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren to live in? No. We have seen too many lives lost to violence. We must thank organisations like Hear the Children's Cry and the Centre for the Investigation of Sexual Offences and Child Abuse for the initiative they are taking to save our children, but our country will still be deprived of the contributions that those children could have made.

Statistics show that in 2008, a total of 960 children went missing in our small island, and the National Intelligence Bureau of the Ministry of National Security 2009 revealed that of the 960, one hundred and eighty-one are still missing.

 

UNITED NATIONS CONVENTION

 

On the night of November 20, 1989, the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

This convention promised us the right to life, education, freedom, and health care. It promised us, children like myself, protection from many things - discrimination, torture, inhumane or humiliating treatment or punishment, but today, I see the opposite happening. The adults who are bound by statutory law to ensure our protection are the ones who are inflicting emotional and physical wounds on us. While growing up, I used to hear the saying, 'It takes a village to raise a child', but is this still the case? Are we still concerned about our neighbour and our neighbour's child?

I say to my peers, we can make a difference. We can save the children and save our island home. We can 'first-start' in the homes. Parents, I call not on our prime minister today, but on you. Live up to your responsibility. You have the responsibility to ensure our safety. Listen to us! Care for us! Communicate with us! Provide for us!

Instill the correct values in us. Instil the correct values in us. Teach us how to differentiate between right and wrong. Let us feel like we belong to you. Love us ... Applaud us and empower us.

Educators among us, work with parents to help raise awareness about the improve of emergency preparedness and child protection. Develop public awareness campaigns and workshops. Educate us in safety precautions. Show us you care. Listen to us. Share what you know.

I stand firmly advocating for more support for us from the prime minister and minister of national security.

Support the Child's Club in our school, our churches and communities. Support child-led activities that educate us on how to protect ourselves. Empower us through involvement. Create more child-friendly spaces where we can run in to case of emergencies.

Develop more public awareness campaigns against child trafficking, child labour and child exploitation. Offer pilot training for teachers and social workers so they could provide care to families and children.

Lower the unemployment rate so that parents can stop using us, the vulnerable, the weak, to help to care for and provide the basic necessities.

Ladies and gentlemen, to save our children, you need to become more involved in their lives Contribute to the organisations that are striving to save the children. Hold accountable persons who are responsible for our safety and protection accountable and let us all return to the days when it took the village to raise a child.

Educate to alleviate. Save the children and save our beautiful country Jamaica.

- Asonika Carpenter is a 10-year-old grade five student at Allman Town Primary School. She delivered this speech to a meeting of the Rotary Club of Trafalgar New Heights on May 11.