Children today are at risk, vulnerable, suffering and in need of protection, says Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar.
As the world marks Universal Children's Day today, Persad-Bissessar pleaded for everyone—citizens, community activists, lawmakers and leaders at home and abroad—to make a firm resolution to protect children everywhere from every form of violence so they can sleep in comfort and grow into the adults God intended them to be.
“If the society we build depends on the way we treat our children, then it is our responsibility to ensure that no child suffers, and every child has the opportunity to learn, grow and live happily,” she stated.
The former prime minister said in Trinidad and Tobago many children have suffered tragic and painful violence as their lives were taken, as she noted the horrific experiences this week of little Artie Ramkhelawan, who survived an attack, and two-year-old Keyra Singh, who died of a gunshot wound.
She stated some of the worst abuse takes place at home from parents and family, in our schools, in other institutions and in the community.
“Too often society shuts its eyes to child trafficking, physical and humiliating treatment and other forms of violence that seriously affect a child's dignity, development and physical and psychological integrity,” said Persad-Bissessar.
She said as adults and as leaders, we all share a solemn responsibility to do all we must to ensure all children are protected and saved from abusive situations.
Outside of this country, Persad-Bissessar pointed out that in Syria, which has been ravaged by war for nearly five years, more than two million children have been negatively affected.
“War deprived them of their families, their homes, and the comforts we often take for granted. These children remain vulnerable, while some countries that pledged to protect them are closing their doors, leaving these children homeless, stateless, hungry and abandoned.
“The Syrian children of war are not unique. Children in every culture and at every stratum of society face various forms of abuse, neglect, exploitation and violence,” she added.
Persad-Bissessar reminded that as prime minister she worked toward the protection of the nation's children.
“I ensured that the Children's Authority became functional. My first act as the country's leader was to pursue a Children's Life Fund, which to date has saved the lives of more than 200 of our children. We built and equipped a children's hospital that is still unopened. My government also focused on education, guaranteeing the right of children to a good education from nursery to tertiary,” she stated, adding the work to protect the children must continue.
Persad-Bissessar further noted that 61 years ago, the General Assembly of the United Nations urged its member states to institute a Universal Children's Day to create worldwide fraternity and understanding among children, which was followed with the declaration of Universal Children's Day, to be celebrated on November 20 each year, and in 1989 it adopted the Convention on the Rights of the Child.
All these steps, she stated, were intended to formalise a promise that world leaders would do everything to protect and promote the rights of children.
She said today the world is far from fulfilling that pledge to take every possible measure to protect the rights of children “to survive and thrive, to learn and grow, to make their voices heard and to reach their full potential”.
“With multi-lateral arrangements, strong public policy and legislation already in place, we have no excuse for failing to protect children, and we must do more, starting now.
“We must ensure that children not only survive but also thrive, become educated and are protected from violence so they can grow with love and affection and become respected and responsible members of society,” stated Persad-Bissessar.