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Commentary: Why advocacy is important for children's rights
Published on January 8, 2014 Email To Friend    Print Version

By Felicia Browne

The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) recently reported that child marriage and the rates of young girls becoming pregnant at tender ages have increased in the Caribbean over the last few years. Though many of us, may not understand the social and epistemic roles for the rights of young children -- especially young girls, this report has not only shown the growing trend of child abuse, but also, the responsibility that the state must take into consideration to protect the rights of children.

Felicia Browne is a feminist philosopher at the University of the West Indies and human rights advisor
This human rights violation must be addressed as many children are being violated due to sociopolitical norms that has continue to seen as permissible even at its highest form.

The UNFPA also notes that 28% of young girls are either married before the age of 18 or enter year parentage. The alarming nature of these cases also urges regional government organization to implement policies that would alleviate these concerns.

"That's an extraordinary figure; and when you look at that, it's almost as if you are saying we want young women to be pregnant before they finish school, while it's too dangerous to their health, while they are not able to take care of their children," deputy executive director of UNFPA, Kate Gilmore, told the Jamaica Observer.

"It's an extraordinary symptom of this lack of attention to the situation of young women. Once they are married, we think everything is okay, and it is not okay. They are not ready physically or socially," she lamented.

Here in Saint Lucia, it is critically important that as parents, community leaders, government and local celebrities, we each have the responsibility in ensuring the messages we send out to the children of this nation, adhere to the very ideals we would wish upon our own.

We must realize that we have a responsibility to ensure good guidance and be the best role-models that we can be. Children constantly look for validation in the behaviour they demonstrate. As they watch MTV and imitate the dance, they watch us and imitate what they see. It may be our behaviour in the home, or behaviour and poor examples they witness on social media.

A recent post on Facebook highlighted the issue where a prominent female member of government posted a thread validating the love an under-age child can have for an older man. This sets an example we must ensure our young girls do not follow, and preferably, do not even see.

Guiding parents on the protection of young girls and the rights of those young girls must be given full consideration to alleviate some of the growing concerns that we face as regional nationals. Let's all ensure that we each are setting high standards in the education and thinking of these children by ensuring that the behaviour and statements of us all, are not damaging to these young minds.

We may not always get it right -- but it is also our responsibility to teach each other on the nature and forms violations against our girls within society. Violations that are seen as culturally permissible can be damaging to a child. We must continue to help each other, always educate and inform each other on the wider picture.
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