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Child protection discussed

The workshop being facilitated this week by UNICEF in partnership with the Government and other nongovernment organizations focuses on what communities can do to help children reestablish normalcy during and after natural disasters and what their needs are. The workshop focuses on a technique called “Return to Happiness”. Diana Shaw of the Child Development Foundation is part of the discussions. She says communities need to know about the rights of children. In the discussions this week, the participants are looking at the Convention on the rights of a child, particularly article 31 that deals with the right to play, leisure and culture expression; and article 39 that speaks to children’s rights to receive services, and recovery from abuse, neglect and exploitation. According to Shaw, Belize has the necessary legislations in place that ensures the best interest of the child is of primary consideration.

Diana Shaw – Child Development Foundation
“Belize is a signatory to the Convention on the Rights of Child and we also incorporated that into local legislation. The Families and Children’s Act is a result of a signing onto the CRC and it gives specific provisions in it about protecting the rights of children ensuring firstly that decisions that affect children, that the principle that guides us should be that the best interest of the child is the primary consideration and basically the workshop is around that, if we focus on what is the best interest of the child and not just ‘okay we need to rebuild the house and the parents need to get back a job.’ but not missing the needs of the children in the organizing the shelter, ensuring that there are safe places in the shelter for children to play because even though it’s a disaster they still need to play they still need to know that things are going to come back to normal and what we need to know as we are interacting with those families to help them to be able to provide that for children.”

During the workshop session on Monday, the participants discussed the mandatory reporting regulations and who are the persons that are required to make reports of child neglect, abuse or exploitation.

Diana Shaw – Child Development Foundation
“Who are the persons who are mandatorily required to report such as teachers, persons in the medical field, nurses, doctors, principals, school managers, persons who are in social work and persons in institutions that are caring for children basically anybody whose primary role it is to care for children, has a mandatory obligation to report. The law speaks about a voluntary or a moral obligation of the public to report but that does not mean that they should ignore a situation of abuse that they know about. If you see something you should report it, if you are not sure and you think it might be abusive you should still report it because without the report then no action can be activated to protect the child and we were explaining that you report to the department of Human Services or the police and if you report and you don’t see an action that you follow it up, you don’t just forget about it; you call again, report it again and that the community also needs to be involved in ensuring that they are watching out for children, they are a part of creating that safe environment for children by getting the adequate tools. You talk about teachers getting training so that they can notice indicators and what they are supposed to be reporting and so on.

The discussion on Monday also shed light into the existing gaps as it relates to mandatory reporting of child neglect, abuse or exploitation. Shaw says the suggestion is to strengthen the mandatory reporting structure. The workshop concludes on Friday.