Parents and guardians are being encouraged to pay closer attention to children and provide an avenue where their voices can be heard.
The urging came from Government Senator Dr. Sapphire Longmore while speaking on a motion for the adjournment of the Senate on Friday (May 13).
She made the call against the backdrop that the month of May is observed as Child Month, and the theme this year is, ‘Listen Up! Children’s Voices Matter’.
“When a child says something, especially something disturbing, it is not inherent for them to come up with this, they learnt it, or they were exposed to it and so we must pay attention to it. There is a lot of stress going on in our society and … children will express it in different ways.
“If you see a child saying something, behaving in a particular way, being a little bit more clingy…they may just need your attention, so especially now at this time and going forward, listen to them, pay attention and let their voices be heard,” she said.
This is critical, she said, and will allow the adult to investigate and seek the necessary intervention to protect children from harm and ensure their well-being.
“I will not go into great details as to the significance of this at this time with what we are seeing out there in terms of our children going back to school, post COVID, and the challenges that … are being faced, not just as the children themselves but those who care for our children. ‘Listen Up, Children’s Voices Matter’ is quite significant,” Dr. Longmore stated.
Opposition Senator Gabriela Morris called on Jamaicans to use Child Month as a reminder to play a collective role in looking out for children.
“It still takes a village to ensure that our children have safe spaces to exist in. It still takes a village to ensure that our children feel heard, so I want to remind the general public that there is a 211 hotline for children who are being abused, for children who are not in school,” Senator Morris said.
She urged community members to speak up and speak out about incidents of child abuse. “Don’t just let it be a community whisper, if something is happening to a child: report, report, report. The onus is on all of us to ensure that we play our part in creating a future for our children that we can be proud of,” she said.
211 is a child abuse helpline. The 24-hour child helpline can be dialed from a cellular or landline telephone free of cost. It replaces 888-PROTECT and is operated by trained officers from the Child Protection and Family Services Agency (CPFSA) through the National Children’s Registry.
The 211 helpline forms part of strategic efforts by the Ministry of Education and Youth to empower youth to protect themselves by reporting incidents of abuse that they may face.