‘Teach your children about ‘914’ like you teach them ABCs’
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Minister of Human Services and Social Security, Dr. Vindhya Persaud
Minister of Human Services and Social Security, Dr. Vindhya Persaud

…Minister Persaud urges at launch of two Child Advocacy Centres in Region Six

EVERY child must be taught that if they are ever in trouble, there will always be someone to help them on the other end of the 914 hotline.
This is the vision of Minister of Human Services and Social Security, Dr. Vindhya Persaud, who launched two new Child Advocacy Centres in Region Six (East Berbice-Corentyne) on Saturday.
The facilities, located at Springlands and Whim, provide a safe space for abused children to tell their stories just once, as against repeatedly relating and reliving their trauma to various stakeholders, in the quest for justice.

One of the child-friendly corners at the Child Advocacy Centre in Springlands

Similar to the other centres in various parts of the country, these recently launched facilities are also outfitted with child-friendly spaces, along with an interview room to accommodate the abused child and one interviewer, most likely a fully-trained social worker; other stakeholders, including law enforcement officials, will be able to witness the ongoing interview virtually, from an adjacent room.

Minister Persaud, in her feature address at the simple commissioning ceremony at Springlands, said that the centres will add to the ministry’s efforts of decentralising its services to ensure that these can be easily accessed by all Guyanese, especially abused women and children.

Shortly after at the opening of the Whim centre, Dr. Persaud explained that in an effort to eliminate child abuse altogether, more emphasis will be placed on administering and in some cases, strengthening complementing parenting programmes as part of the global Spotlight Initiative.
Reflecting on the more than 3000 cases of child abuse recorded in 2020, Dr. Persaud said that more needs to be done to create a stricter culture of reporting among Guyanese.
“When you see something, say something,” the minister implored.

She also encouraged her staff to keep the ‘human’ in human services and ensure that they approach each case with urgency and humility.
“When a report is made, that’s not the end of it. What happens next? We need to ensure that the trauma that is experienced, that [it] is mitigated by what happens next, because the scars that will remain are lasting ones,” Dr. Persaud posited.

She expressed appreciation to the partners who made the establishment of the centres a reality; they include Child Link, the European Union and the United Nations.

Minister of Human Services and Social Security, Dr. Vindhya Persaud, and EU Ambassador to Guyana, Fernando Ponz Canto, test out the interview room, as onlookers observe from the adjoining room at the Child Advocacy Centre in Springlands

During her brief remarks at the opening of the Whim facility, Director of Child Link, Omattie Madray, underscored the importance of the media in effecting wholesome changes. In this regard, she encouraged media workers to disseminate information of abuse in a responsible manner which will not stigmatise the many services that can be accessed to bring great relief to vulnerable members of society.

Madray also lamented the need for the programmes to be administered by persons who have the capacity and passion to execute the functions of their portfolios. Meanwhile, European Union (EU) Ambassador to Guyana, Fernando Ponzo Canto, assured that the protection of children remains a priority at the level of the EU, and that the opening of the Child Advocacy Centres is a good illustration of what can be achieved through collaboration.

He said that Guyana has so far benefitted from almost GYD$1 billion that have gone towards improving the lives of children in Guyana.
“A country can be measured based on how we treat children, and the EU is proud and happy to be supporting the government,” Ambassador Canto posited.
Similar sentiments were shared by, Mikiko Tanaka, United Nations Resident Coordinator to Guyana, who pointed to the importance of breaking the often repetitive cycle of violence where abuse is normalised and children grow up to either become abusers or accept being abused.

One of the child-friendly corners at the Child Advocacy Centre in Springlands

“We have to cut that vicious cycle…it (abuse) is not normal; violence is unacceptable,” Tanaka asserted, as she pointed to the United Nations £500 million spent on efforts to end violence against women.
Reflecting on the Spotlight Initiative, Tanaka said that this has proven to be successful in various parts of the world, and that there is need to capitalise on the expanding network that continues to showcase innovation of various magnitudes.

“Lessons learned here could benefit other countries,” Tanaka surmised.
In wrapping up the second commissioning exercise, Dr. Persaud said that she wishes to see more perpetrators being brought to justice.
“No matter where a child is or who that child is, that child should be assured of safety, love, encouragement and motivation,” the Human Services and Social Security minister concluded.

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