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Religious Leaders - The Voice of Change for Children: Faith Based Organisations pledge to work together in the interest of children and women in Guyana

© UNICEF Guyana.2009
UNICEF Regional Director for LAC, Mr. Nils Kastberg leading discussions with the representatives of Faith Based Organisations.

Georgetown, Guyana, March 19, 2009 - Under the umbrella of the Inter-Religious Organisation (IRO), religious leaders from local faith based groups across the country met yesterday with Regional Director of UNICEF for Latin America and the Caribbean, Mr. Nils Kastberg for a one day conference aimed at building alliances for the development of children and women and the role Faith Based Organisations (FBOs)can play in improving the lives of children.

UNICEF Representative for Guyana, Suriname and Trinidad and Tobago, Johannes Wedenig in opening the meeting stressed that, “although the different religious groups hold different mandates, there is one thing they all have in common - as religious leaders you all are seen as symbols of trust and your voices are being heard. You have the extraordinary power of moral authority and religious conviction which will help bring about positive change for children. As leaders, you are able to not only set priorities but to change mindsets of your communities.  This is where your power lies.” 

Chairing the days’ proceedings, Chairperson of the Ethnic Relations Commission, Bishop Juan Edghill, also picked up the call for the religious community to embrace change and work together rather than as individual groups. “Religious leaders must be taking the fight rather than being spectators to what is happening to children today… we need to be the voice of change.  It is not enough to simply be aware of the current situation, rather it is the actions that are taken, which will give the children a glimpse of hope,” he said.

Drawing a biblical parallel, UNICEF Regional Director Nils Katsberg reflected on the idea that, “in the Bible Jesus puts the child in the center as a subject of love and care. But we, his disciples, continue to keep the children aside” he noted. It is time this changes and all people start praising and loving their children, and like Jesus place the child in the center, rather than them being left in the dark.”  Mr. Kastberg further emphasized that religious leaders have a prophetic mission in society for advocating structural change that requires a social policy approach rather than implementing solely projects in the social area. UNICEF is convinced that any significant change for children cannot be realized without the active leadership of religious leaders, “We need now, more than ever, to come together as strong leaders and build an alliance for children”.

The combined prophetic voices were resounding in their conclusions on the way forward as they identified key areas for collaboration with UNICEF and beyond.  These include coming together and networking of all faith based organizations to maximize efforts and avoid duplications and supporting positive socialization of boys into caring and responsible men. A key emphasis was also placed on parenting programmes, life skills development in children and the prevention of violence against children and young people.  Making their voice heard regarding public investments for children and ensuring that resources are reaching the children most in need.

The meeting was convened as a follow up on the recommendations made in the Mid Term Review of the Government of Guyana/ UNICEF Country Programme Action Plan 2006 - 2010, in terms of building and strengthening of partnerships with Faith Based Organisations in relation to strong community presence in finding ways to end violence against children, ensuring that no child lives in poverty and defining and support the roles of parental and spiritual leaders in achieving these aims.

For more information
Leslyn Thompson, lthompson@unicef.org, UNICEF Guyana
Tamara Hahn, thahan@unicef.org, UNICEF Latin America and the Caribbean


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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