The prevention of violence, abuse and neglect, exploitation and discrimination of children has become one of the five corporate priorities and the protective environment approach has provided a common platform for UNICEF’s work on child protection.
The spiral of violence within the society has motivated the Guyana Country Office to intensify the work with children and caregivers at both the Governmental and non-governmental level. The purpose is to ensure protection for women and children through the promotion of safe communities and families. The Child Protection programme will contribute to the United Nations Development Assistance Framework (UNDAF) outcome 3 which looks at reducing poverty through stimulation of growth and job creation as well as UNDAF outcome 2 on empowering individuals and groups, strengthened institutions and an enabling constitutional and human rights framework. It comprises two projects: Public Policy and Promotion of Child Rights and Child Protection.
The results of the two projects under the Child Protection programme will be achieved through the development and implementation of an essential package of public policies and legislation for the protection of children. These rights based projects are tailored to address needs at both the governmental and non-governmental level so that at the community level, access to essential quality social services that reduce children’s vulnerability to violence, abuse and exploitation—including psychosocial support—will be improved.
The Children’s Bill is a comprehensive package of legislation with five bills: Adoption of Children; Child Care and Development Services; Custody, Access, Guardianship and Maintenance Bill; Status of Children , Protection of Children Bill.
A recent review on Juvenile Justice in Guyana has raised questions as to whether the current legislation on Juvenile Justice in Guyana, the Juvenile Offenders Act and Training School’s Act need to be revised. (See Guyana Juvenile Justice Report)
Improved access to legal aid for adolescents in conflict with the law, community based mediation and alternative dispute resolution are all components of this process. Additionally the capacity of caregivers and support to community for the reintegration of adolescents in conflict with the law into their families and communities is also being addressed.
The Guyana Office currently supports at the community level, four NGOs in three different regions of Guyana. These four NGOs provide a range of services to Orphans and other Vulnerable Children (OVC) and Persons Living with Hiv/Aids(PLWAs) It includes the provision of hot meals, psychosocial support, and the establishment of child friendly spaces.
Comforting Hearts, an NGO located in Region 6 has been in existence for over 12 years and was the first established group in the region to address the issue of HIV/AIDS. Currently this organisation provides a range of support services to PLWAs and OVC. This NGO which undertakes several outreach programmes within rural areas to address voluntary counselling and testing is being supported by UNICEF in the implementation nutritional support to 40 OVC and 20 PLWAs . This service is being implemented by members of a PLWAs support group under the umbrella of Comforting Hearts.
St Francis Community Developers initially established as religious youth group, and then developing a library service for young people within the community, has expanded over the years and provides a range of support services to other community organisations. This group was recently identified and documented as a Best Practice in the Region by the Commonwealth Youth Program.(CYP). St Francis Community Developers also provides voluntary counselling and testing and a range of support services for orphans and vulnerable children. In addition to donor support, this group receives financial support from civil society and is currently working to seek sponsorship from a wider cross section of civil society groups to support children remaining in families despite their level of poverty.
Linden Care Foundation located in Region 10 gains funding from several international organisations to work with PLWAs and OVC. The services provided by this NGO include low cost medicare for PLWAs, nutritional support for OVC and child friendly spaces through the medium of technology. The services provided by LCF meet more than 100 children daily.
Monique’s Helping hands located in Region 4 works on a prevention package for OVC. The group currently hosts literacy classes providing support to children with poor reading and writing skills. Additionally, this group has an active youth arm that undertakes outreach initiatives in peer education, etc.
Children and Violence
Generally, when we speak of “child protection” we refer to protection from violence, exploitation, abuse and neglect. Children subjected to violence, exploitation, abuse and neglect are at risk of:
Conversely, successful protection increases a child’s chances of growing up physically and mentally healthy, confident and self-respecting, and less likely to abuse or exploit others, including his or her own children.
In Guyana, the Ministry of Labour, Human Services and Social Security in collaboration with UNICEF, and in association with an NGO- Red Thread, commissioned the Children and Violence Project in 2003. The first phase of the project produced a Children and Violence Study Report on the impact of different forms of violence on the lives of children in Guyana. Peace Education Initiatives which were started in three communities and the establishment of a Child Protection Monitoring System to track and protect children at risk are the other two phases.
As part of the Project a nation-wide education campaign, “Growing Up Without Violence”, was also launched aimed at educating children and adults alike on all forms of violence. The campaign also educated children and adults on ways to protect and assist children who are at risk of violence.
This report and the campaign are the first steps to understanding the magnitude, causes and impact of violence on children in Guyana. Further implementation of the Children and Violence Project is essential in ensuring that children throughout Guyana are protected from all forms of violence.
Read more on Children and Violence in Guyana: Voices of Children: Experiences with Violence