Racquel Simpson, Youthlink Writer
Following growing public awareness of child- abuse cases for the period January 2007 to December 20011, according to information released from the Office of the Children's Registry (OCR), it is hoped that there will be a significant reduction in the numbers for the coming years through the OCR-established Ambassador Programme and Jingle Competition initiatives.
The projects, which form part of the OCR's fifth anniversary celebrations, were recently launched at The Courtleigh Hotel under the theme 'Celebrating Five Years of Breaking the Silence'. While both projects are geared towards heightening the level of consciousness among teens and preteens regarding child abuse, the main objective is to embolden that specific age group to report incidents of child abuse which may directly or indirectly involve them.
The OCR believes that both projects could yield great results due to the core involvement of children in the sensitisation process. In her address public education specialist at the OCR, Mrs Trevesa DaSilva Ashman, stated, "We learn a lot from children, therefore there could not have been a better way to bring across the messages than to use the children themselves to encourage their peers to speak out on child abuse."
According to the findings from the registry, over 25,000 cases of child abuse were made during the period January 2007 to December 2011.
Statistical data also revealed that there was an overall increase in the number of reports received during the period. Figures indicate that there were 455 reported cases for 2007 and 3,973 for 2008. In 2009, 6,439 reports were received and while this showed a slight decrease by 109 cases moving into 2010, there was a significant increase for 2011, which saw 7,826 reports being made.
According to Minister of Youth and Culture Lisa Hanna, "While the data shows that more cases of child abuse are being reported than in the past, it is also an indication that something is clearly wrong. For the next five years of your operations, I challenge the OCR to find new ways of sensitising the nation about the importance of not only reporting child abuse, but preventing its occurrence; nothing less will suffice. There can be no letting up in the effort to protect our children."
Another concern for the OCR, which influenced the idea for the two child participation programmes, is that of the 25,000 reports, less than two per cent were made by children. These two programmes are expected to change this trend as they include children between the ages of 10 and 17 helping to promote the reporting of child abuse among their peers.
The child ambassador programme
Entries are open to children ages 10-17 with good oral and written communication skills. The entrants must also possess strong leadership and teamwork skills as the one selected as OCR Child Ambassador will commit to at least one year of volunteering in public educational activities.
There will be one ambassador within each of the six Ministry of Education areas across the country and he/she will be required to serve in his/her respective parish and community and, on occasion, in different areas where there might be an OCR event. Other duties of the Child Ambassador will include:
- Participating in various OCR public education and planning activities.
- Participating in media interviews and media items which are part of the public education campaign.
- Representing and making presentations on behalf of the OCR.
- Sharing information regarding child abuse with friends and family.
The OCR Jingle Competition
The OCR's Jingle Competition is open to children of the same age group and will require entrants to submit a song, 30 seconds in length, encouraging persons to report child abuse. The following rules govern the competition:
- The 30-second jingle should embrace messages about reporting child abuse
- It should contain the OCR's toll-free number 1-888-PROTECT
- Jingles must be submitted along with the scripts and entry forms
- Entries containing lecherous lyrics will be disqualified
- Jingles should be submitted in either MP3 format or on CDs to the OCR at 12 Carlton Crescent, Kingston 10, or to any Child Development Agency parish/regional office.
- Entries will also be accepted by emails sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.
All entries for both programmes should be submitted no later than July 20 and the selection process will be conducted in August. As it relates to the Ambassador Programme, eligible applicants will be contacted by September 2012. Interested person can visit www.ocr.gov.jm for further information on both programmes.