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Police and BDF learn child rights

Fifteen officers from the Belize Police department and the Belize Defence Force have completed a training for trainers on child rights. The officers received their certificates of completion this morning in Belize City. The ceremony was attended by former Commissioner of Police, Gerald Westby who also co-facilitated the sessions, and by Brigadier General Steven Ortega.

Gerald Westby – CoFacilitator: “The project entails drafting a course on child rights which will be integrated into the curriculum of Police and BDF Training Academies and the training of trainers who will eventually support the delivery of this course in their respective institutions. The training of trainers was conducted in two phases: The first phase ran from the  4th – 9th March at the Inspirational Center here in Belize City. During this week consultants facilitated the delivery of all models in the manual and then participants took turns facilitating sections of the manual, obtaining feedback from their peers and the consultants. Sometimes they were a bit too critical but I guess they took it in stride. I have never seen a better team of participants than this group. The second phase of the training took place this week from Monday to Thursday and in the second phase, they continued the facilitation, presentations and received feedbacks.”

Brigadier General Steven Ortega BDF Commander: “Some of the topics covered in a broad sense are the child and by this I mean the understanding of the development of a child’s brain and the adverse effects such as neglect, trauma, and abuse could have on their development. You also touched on the 5 C’s on positive youth development. That is competence, connection, confidence, character and contribution/ slash caring. We as security forces have a critical role to play in the system along with the other departments such as the Courts, Human Services, Legal Assistance, the Ombudsman, custodial institutions and other NGOs. We all have a part to play in the protection of our children. To assist us however we have legislation and other treaties that we have signed and ratified. It is an old adage that says the children are our future, to that end by protecting them we are protecting our future.”

The program was supported by UNICEF. Prgram Coordinator Michel Guinand said the capacity building exercise is especially important for security personnel who interact with children and youth or who work closely on cases involving children and young people.

Michael Guinand Program Coordinator, UNICEF: “As security providers have a great responsibility to respect and support children rights, also to do so there is a need to have an understanding of how your operations affect the rights and well-being of young people. The vulnerabilities that children face, yes may come from other people but sadly also from people like you, police and military, colleagues in your own departments and friends. There are many considerations that you should think through to identify potential risks to ensure that human rights violations and child rights violations are prevented. It is important to be aware of possible red flags and how to address them in order to uphold the rights of children and young people especially. At UNICEF we sincerely hope that this training in children rights which you now was completed today will prove to be quite valuable in getting children to cooperate while at the same time respecting and upholding their rights. We hope that this training will also help to strengthen your work so that cases simply won’t fall apart because you fail to follow proper procedures when dealing with children.”

The participants are expected to train other officers in the Police Department and the BDF.