Barbados, other Caribbean countries and states of the Americas have come of age and demonstrated their maturity by subscribing to conventions and enacting laws recognizing that children are subject to emotions as do adults and must be protected.
This is the sentiment of Prime Minister Freundel Stuart who has said that adults who control society “have to pay the same kind of attention that we pay to our own rights to their [children] rights as well. At the core of those rights is the right to enjoy their childhood”.
“It is a mark of our civilization in this part of the world that we allow our children to be children, to enjoy their childhood and that we take conscious steps, to protect their rights and to ensure,” he told delegates to the 92nd Inter-American Children’s Institute Conference.
The two-day conference opened yesterday at the Lloyd Erskine Sandiford Centre, and Stuart made the comments last night at an Ilaro Court reception while addressing representatives of the 25 Caribbean, South, Central, and North American countries that comprise the Institute which is part of the Organization of American States.
Noting that Barbados is the first Caribbean country to host this conference, Stuart told the Institute’s organizers that this fact “signifies your understanding that Barbados as a country also attaches the greatest importance to its children”.
He said this was not the case around the time this island attained political independence.” Fifty years ago, children were to be seen and not heard. There was no conception of children’s rights. They were objects and not subjects of anything.
“It is testimony to the great leap forward that we have made not only here in Barbados and the English-speaking but in this hemisphere that today we attach the importance which we do to the rights of children, that we recognize that they think, feel, dream, aspire, they can be disappointed, hurt, and all of that gamut of emotions that we as adults experience are also the lot and portion of our children,” Stuart said.
The Institute’s member countries have five national languages but Stuart observed that the recognition of the rights of children transcends the way people of the hemisphere speak.
“Whatever our language may be, the welfare of our children remains the same … across language barriers. We have the same interest in protecting the rights of our children.”
Since 1990, Barbados became signatory to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, and Stuart assured that this island remains ready to be part of any other covenant recognizing the need for special treatment of children.
“The Government of Barbados is committed to ensuring that whatever conventions, treaties, understandings that may be relevant to this hemisphere and relevant globally that require the adoption, and eventually the signature of Barbados [is] sure to be executed by us because our commitment to the welfare of our children is irrevocable and is profound”.
In updating the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child on happenings in Barbados earlier this year, Minister of Social Care and Community Development, Steve Blackett, had said that violence against children was a source of great concern.
He reportedly informed the Committee that a comprehensive review of laws relating to children, women and their families had been undertaken, which would shortly be followed with prioritization of areas for reform to ensure the greater conformity of domestic legislation with international conventions.
According to a statement by that Committee, its “experts congratulated Barbados on the progress made since the last review in 1999, particularly in the areas of education and health, and also on the success in maintaining budget allocations for children despite the economic and financial crisis”.