(PRESS RELEASE) – “Let us always remember that the measure of our nation can be ascertained by how we treat our children.
On this Universal Children’s Day 2017, I ask that all of us as Saint Lucians reflect on our responsibility to love and care for our children.
“On this day, too, I re-affirm our Government’s commitment to safeguarding the rights of all children and call on the community to recognize that our nation’s children are our most precious treasure.
“In Saint Lucia, the cases of abuse, the victims of crime, are too often our children, who are placed in the care of grown-ups who are charged with their protection. This shows us that as a society we must be fully committed to our responsibility to our children if we are to develop a nation of people we can truly be proud of.
“Everything we do as a country, towards our development, whether infrastructural or financial, will come to naught if we shirk our responsibility to take care of the youngest among us and ensure that we provide them, with not just basic needs, but also guidance and opportunities.
“We must teach our children certain values, help them to develop a sense of who they are as Saint Lucians. We must teach them about local heroes, past and present, and teach them responsibility, respect for themselves and others and instill in them a sense of honesty. Our young people must know the value of their own lives and their neighbours’ lives. Saint Lucia, we must teach our children respect for the law.
“The crises our country now faces, among them the economy, unemployment and crime, are not insurmountable, if only we are determined to fight them together. Future generations are depending on us.
“Look into the eyes of our nation’s children and let us all ask ourselves what are the individual things we can do to save a child, to help a child, to make a child’s life better.
“A child should not have to worry about his or her next meal, or how they will get to schools or take care of their brothers and sisters. A child should not have to live in a household where he or she is abused, whether sexually, physically or verbally.
“I assure you that our Government is taking the necessary steps to ensure our children can learn and grow up in a safe environment where they have opportunities to succeed.
“We are committed to:
• Empowering the youth through Education, Sports and Culture: with focus on reviewing our curriculum, developing a School dedicated to Sports and Culture
• Adopting Child- and Family-centered policies
• Providing sustainable forms of employment for parents
• Developing After-School & Coaching Programmes
• Strengthening our social services to respond to at-risk youth
• Improving the Justice System: with emphasis on juvenile justice
• Expanding and improving support programmes for Special Needs Children
“This is only the beginning and forms part of our overall strategy to tackle issues affecting youth and crime at its root as we seek to create the best environment possible for our children.
“Saint Lucia, when we were young we learned that “it takes a village to raise a child”. We must return to those foundational beliefs. As we mark Universal Children’s Day, we support the theme that “Early Years Matter” and it is time for action. We know the right start can change a child’s destiny.”