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UNICEF in Latin America and the Caribbean

 

Children’s voices heard at COHSOD in the Caribbean

© Justim Mounter, Youth Media Guyana

GEORGETOWN/GUYANA, 17 March 2008 - The voices of Caribbean children were heard loudly on Monday at the official opening of the 2nd Special Session on Children of the CARICOM Council of Human and Social Development (COHSOD). The meeting, attended by Ministers from CARICOM member states, was called to assess progress made since the 1st special COHSOD meeting in 2002 on those areas that especially affect children: Early Childhood Development, Child Protection, HIV and AIDS, and Infant and Maternal Mortality.

According to UNICEF Regional Director for Latin America and the Caribbean, Nils Kastberg, the timing of this COHSOD session is especially significant as “we are at a crossroads - just past halfway to 2015”, the target date set for the realization of the Millennium Development Goals.

According to Mr. Kastberg, children in the Caribbean region face a multitude of growing challenges. The region has the world’s highest rate of homicides among 15-17 year olds, with boys six times more likely to be victims than girls; girls are often the victims of sexual violence, partly contributing to Latin America and the Caribbean having the world’s second highest teenage pregnancy rate; the region also presents the highest rate of global gun crime – 42 per cent of the world’s homicides. While progress has been made in some key areas including education, it is clear much more needs to be done if the region is to achieve the MDGs.

© Natasha Ikoli, UNICEF, NY
Children of the Caribbean speak out. Kiana Wilburg, 15 (Guyana), Mikhail Passee, 17 (Trinidad and Tobago) and Genelva Krind, 16 (Suriname) addressing the CARICOM leaders.

To focus the attention of the visiting delegations on the issues that matter to children themselves, Monday’s opening session was addressed by young people from the Caribbean. Organised by UNICEF, child delegates from Guyana, Trinidad and Tobago and Suriname read a joint statement calling on all CARICOM states not just to talk, but to make the necessary changes to support the region’s children. “We experience injustices such as sexual, physical and verbal abuse, unavailability of good quality and affordable education, and the stifling of our voices,” they told the delegates.

‘Children have the right to be heard.” The youth statement called upon Ministers not to just shut their eyes, close their hearts and hope young people will go away. “We may be powerless now,” they said, “but in a few years we’ll be the ones sitting in your seats and making the decisions. Give us a foundation that you would be proud of.  Let us be the change you want to see in the world … We demand from you a Caribbean that is safe, one that provides us the right environment in which we can grow up and reach our full potential in whatever areas we choose, a Caribbean that can contribute to a world that is fit for us – your children.”

Children will feature prominently in the COHSOD’s second day on Tuesday March 18th. Child journalists will present a 15 minute newscast on issues raised at the meeting, including interviews with local children on what concerns them, and with Ministers attending the meeting who are asked what they are going to do about it.

For more information contact:
Leslyn Thompson, Communication Officer – UNICEF
592-225-8105 or email - lthompson@unicef.org

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About UNICEF
UNICEF is on the ground in over 150 countries and territories to help children survive and thrive, from early childhood through adolescence.  The world’s largest provider of vaccines for developing countries, UNICEF supports child health and nutrition, good water and sanitation, quality basic education for all boys and girls, and the protection of children from violence, exploitation, and AIDS.  UNICEF is funded entirely by the voluntary contributions of individuals, businesses, foundations and governments.

 

 
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