Minister urges political unity against child abuse

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

General manager of the TT Postal Corporation Marcus McLeod recieves a brochure from the Minister of Gender and Child Affairs Ayanna Webster-Roy at the Office of The Prime Minister, St Clair on April 12. – Photo by Venessa Mohammed

The Gender and Child Affairs Minister, Ayanna Webster-Roy, says the public needs to set aside their political views to combat child and gender abuse.

On Friday, during the handover of child abuse brochures to kick off Child Abuse Prevention Month, Webster-Roy called on fellow politicians to collaborate with the ministry.

“Let us find out how best we can address the problems affecting the children in your constituency. Don’t let politics come into that. When we call for collaboration, we hope that every individual will be big enough and brave enough to answer the call.”

In an interview with Newsday, Webster-Roy said this initiative is one of many to come.

“We partnered with the MP for Cumuto/Manzanilla, Dr Rai Ragbir, for example, where we would have developed an initiative called ‘In the know, on the go’ which prepares children, communities, and families to treat with child abuse. We plan to take that into other constituencies.”

The brochures are intended for adults and children. They aim to educate the public on identifying signs of child abuse, steps to address allegations, and include contact information on various child protection agencies.

Webster-Roy said they will be made available to the public in various ways.

“Through partnering with the postal service, the pamphlets will be distributed to every household in the national listing. They will be on display in specific hubs, namely national libraries, schools, and the Ministry of Health’s health centres as part of the Gender and Child Affairs outreach efforts.”

Webster-Roy also called on the media to help in the fight against child abuse.

“You can help us by ensuring that good news takes centre stage. Yes, bad news sells, but in a society that is hurting, putting forward positive things like children who are succeeding despite challenges could help bring about a change.”

Pamphlet distribution begins in April.

Commenting on the brutal murder of Amarah Lallitte, the four-year-old who was decapitated at her Fiver Rivers home, Webster-Roy called on judicial agencies to act in the best interest of children.

“The premise under how we should operate, taking into consideration all the factors, the laws should be in the best interest of the child.”

Speaking about the deaths of seven premature babies from infections in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit of the Port of Spain General Hospital, Webster-Roy offered her condolences to bereaved parents.

“As a mother, every time you hear about a baby dying, it pulls at the heartstrings, and I empathise with those parents who lost their babies.”

Acknowledging the shortcomings of government systems, Webster-Roy said efforts were being made working to address them.

“We are committed to ensuring that we improve our systems. We know and accept we have deficiencies.”

Asked what steps the government has taken to address these shortcomings, Webster-Roy said a standing committee had been established.

“They primarily look at the recommendations to improve that childcare protection sector in TT, but our remit has been expanded as we accept and acknowledge the deficiencies of the system. The committee is focused on working on that.”

The Cabinet-appointed committee includes members of the Tobago House of Assembly, deputy permanent secretaries and representatives from the judiciary and the Children’s Authority.