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Blaine urges Jamaica to listen to children’s voices

Published:Thursday | April 21, 2022 | 12:10 AMJudana Murphy/Gleaner Writer

Hear The Children’s Cry convenor Betty Anne Blaine is calling for a cultural campaign on how to listen and speak to children.

Blaine explained that children have a right to a voice, but culturally, they are socialised to be seen and not heard.

That was among recommendations the child rights campaigner made in her keynote address during Wednesday’s Child Month media launch.

Child Month is celebrated annually in May, with opportunities for parents, caregivers and the general public to celebrate Jamaica’s children.

The activities will begin on May 1 with a church service, and congregations across the island are being encouraged to make their services child-centred for the first Sunday or Sabbath in May.

Additionally, National Children’s Day will be observed on May 20, the National Day of Prayer on the 25th, and the month’s activities will culminate with the distribution of care packages on the 31st.

Blaine also recommended that a children’s voices curriculum be designed and introduced for the formal education system.

“This should include discussion and sharing sessions, children’s artwork, and other appropriate learning tools across all levels of the school system and running through all subject areas,” she said, adding that this could later be adopted by churches and other organisations.

She also urged the media to assist with amplifying children’s voices by engaging them in conversations, polls, vox pops, and surveys.

“For those of us working with children, we can continue to give them a voice through our own work – referrals, assessments, court statements, publications, and the wide range of support services we provide for them,” she said.

The child rights advocate said that the year has not started off well for Jamaican children and listed a series of tragic incidents reported in the media.

“With the multiplicity of laws and the wide array of ministries and agencies in this country, why are our children increasingly becoming an endangered species?” she asked.

Blaine said it seems that the answer lies in the fractured state of family life in Jamaica, the abandonment of values and attitudes, the negative aspects of popular culture, and the intergenerational cycle of poverty, among other factors.

“However, we are not hopeless. Never. This year’s Child Month theme,’Listen Up! Children’s Voices Matter’, is, in itself, a catalyst for change,” Blaine said.

She added that when children are listened to, they feel valued and develop a strong sense of belonging.

“When we give them a voice, we are ensuring and enhancing their academic potential and growth, fuelling their critical-thinking skills and propelling them along a path of personal and professional success, not to mention the social and interpersonal skills they learn,” she explained.