Guyana's commitment: Making children visible!
Georgetown, Guyana, 14 November 2011. The four Political Parties, contesting the General Elections in Guyana on 28 November 2011, have committed to making children visible! The Parties have committed to, always, in or outside government, work towards the progressive realisation of children's rights including, but not limited to:
Signing of the commitment by the presidential candidates and political parties took place at a major public forum (with participation by civil society and the diplomatic/donor community) organised by UNICEF in partnership with the Rights of the Child Commission and in coordination with the Guyana Elections Commission. At the forum (which took place less than two weeks to the 28 November elections), each presidential candidate/party was given and took 15 minutes to articulate the party's position, vision, and plans for children of Guyana vis-a-vis the CRC. This was followed by another two blocks (one block each for the Prime Minister and Opposition Leader of the Children's Parliament) on what children and youths expect from political leaders and the government.
According to the local press (Kaieteur News and Stabroek, 15 November, 2011), the Alliance For ChangeRepresentative (Mr. KemrajRamjattan)indicated that once elected to power, his Government would be committed to advance and enhance the education sector, remove corporal punishment and integrating policies for children. Ms. Cheryl Sampson, of A Partnership for National Unity said that their party will revise and enforce laws to ensure that all children are totally protected..to ensure that laws do not passively remain on the law books of Guyana but to ensure that they will be fully and actively implemented. The candidate of the ruling party, Mr. Samuel Hinds cited his Government’s commitment to children over the past 19 years and in this regard indicated that his Party would continue the many tangible actions they started while in office- including the legislation and the establishment of the Childcare and Protection Agency. Additionally, Mr. Roy Van Tull of The United Force noted that this Party would provide budgetary allocations to develop education, sports and technical and vocational education.
This forum/event was organised with a view to (1) making children's issues visible in the agenda of the country's political parties since it was largely absent and (2) setting the stage for stronger political will to address children's issues after the national and regional elections that will take place in on 28 November.
At the event, UNICEF Representative to Guyana and Suriname, Dr. Suleiman Braimoh, stated that this signing of the commitment represents a strong demonstration of political will that will take the agenda of children andwomen forward. Dr. Braimoh stated that “If you win, and you’re in Government, you have a job to do with respect to children and women. If you don’t win you still have that commitment and a job to do”.
The ‘Prime Minister’ of the Children’s Parliament, Stefan Farier reminded the political parties of the plight of children and stated,” Today, I speak not only for myself but for children all across Guyana. I speak and present myself as a mouthpiece for them because I know they need a voice. I have heard their cries, seen their pains, and felt them myself. I was a child and now I stand before you to tell you what children want to see in the new government. Too many times we have seen children suffer and some die just because someone did not listen to their hearts! Too many times a dream is crushed just because the adults in charge do not think their ideas are big enough or even encourage them to be creative! I ask myself, how will we move forward when the minds of our ‘future’ cannot even get pass thinking of the past? As the Minister of Labour and Human Services in the Children’s Parliament, Hon. Christina Issardeen says: “GIVE THE CHILD A CHANCE! ... I hope and I pray that at least one person in this room who is seated among you is capable to follow that… otherwise Guyana and her children were already lost…
As at the time of this documentation, UNICEF Guyana was mapping out options on how to capitalise on this progress immediately after the elections including through (but not limited to) work with key political actors that may be designated "child rights champions" (e.g., the Speaker of Parliament and leader of the opposition) to foster sustained political visibility and action on children and women's issues in the country.Contact Person: Patricia Gittens, Child Protection Officer (UNICEF Guyana)