4 minutes 4 change
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Become the change you want to see
MOST of us aim to start the New Year off on the right foot. The adage says ‘out with the old and in with the new’. That is easy to say, but the essential point is to keep the momentum going. Change should be consistent and not merely a flash in the pan brought about by a new stage in time. Ironically, every day is a new stage in time, but we tend to take each waking day for granted, usually unaware that we can make change happen at any given moment. A famous saying asks, ‘if not now, when?’.

This column, ‘4 minutes 4 change’, takes roughly four minutes to read, and the objective is to evoke behavioural change in how some children are viewed and treated by adults. Child abuse is a global crime against developing children. In Guyana, data coming into the Childcare and Protection Agency (CPA) indicate that children consistently suffer at the hands of adults.

Every day they are beaten mercilessly by parents and adults who should be caring for them. They are sexually abused by family members or adults who should be protecting them, with many mothers turning a blind eye or blaming children (their sons or daughters) for the abuse. In many cases, adults prefer to shield the sexual perpetrators from the law and deny children the justice they deserve, adding more pain to their trauma.

Some adults neglect, abandon or leave their children to fend for themselves while they go about their lives, barely recognising that children have needs. Adults in some households curse and swear at children, calling them offensive names. They degrade and belittle them – until the child feels like an empty shell, unloved, uncared for and unwanted. No mindful adult would expose the nation’s children to such distressing childhoods. Yet many children endure these ordeals.

Statistics up to November 2021 show that over 130 boys and more than 850 girls between 4 and 18 years old suffered sexual abuse. These are the ones that came to light – the ones reported to CPA offices in different Regions by teachers, neighbours and other citizens. The data for physical abuse and child neglect are similarly daunting, with approximately 1,206 children (4 to 18 years old) neglected during the past year and 699 from the same age group physically abused across Guyana.

In a perfect world, the aim would be to eliminate child abuse, and adults would recognise their role as child protectors. Even suspected abuse would be reported, investigated and the necessary action taken to protect children and educate parents before the abuse became ingrained.

Our principal adult purpose would be to make a better life for children who suffer at the hands of abusers. Instead of waiting for someone else or upon Government Agencies to take up the mantle, we should band together in our communities, religious groups, families and organisations to work alongside Child Protection Officers and other child safeguarding establishments to root out abuse.

This worthy mission must be our duty of care for the abused children of Guyana. Like everyone else, they deserve to have hopes, aspirations and a vision of a better future. The reason we need to make a better life for them is apparent. Broken children become severely broken adults. Without help, dysfunctional relationships, domestic violence or other social abnormalities may dominate their lives as they embark on adulthood. Stress, fatigue or anxiety may hamper their contributions to society and affect the choices and decisions they make. Excessive alcohol or recreational drug use could become an accepted and prominent part of their lifestyle, and, in turn, their children will suffer.

While children are developing, adults need to instil values, morals and qualities that enhance their existence and allow them (the children) to reach their fullest potential. However, not all adults are equipped with the skills to treat children appropriately. Many lack parental knowledge, abilities and foresight. Where does this leave the nurturing, protection and care of their children?

In many cases, children fall prey to predators and depraved individuals who see them as nothing but a means to fulfil their selfish repugnant desires. Child sexual abuse is a heinous crime against a child. Abuse causes trauma, and, without counselling and positive input in their lives, survivors will suffer adverse long-term effects.

Child protection is every adult’s responsibility. The number of children suffering abuse is too many; we must take the role of child protector seriously. We need to cultivate and sustain the will to protect children by calling out child abuse and neglect where ever it exists. Only caring adults can highlight children’s plights and advocate sincerely on their behalf.

Communities can mobilise themselves by appointing honourable people to look out for and speak up for children. They can form groups to brainstorm ideas and find ways to keep children safe in their neighbourhoods. Hotline numbers and links to appropriate persons in child safeguarding and protection can be saved for when needed and distributed to those who proactively desire to support vulnerable children.

Children are not to blame for the circumstances around them – or the ill fate that befalls them in their prime. They are innocent individuals who rely on adult interaction, guidance, and support, to learn about life and find their identity. It is uncanny how profoundly our childhoods affect our adult lives; whether we are aware of where and how we learnt our traits or not, we live by the experiences acquired along the way to adulthood.

Adults have the power to enhance each negative childhood journey positively. In 2022, please let us work together to highlight, help and support unprotected children in Guyana.
If you are concerned about the welfare of a child, call the CPA hotline on 227 0979 or write to us at childcaregy@gmail.com


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