#BTColumn – Towards the protection of our youth

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed by the author (s) do not represent the official position of Barbados TODAY.

by Women in Action

On May 1, 2022, representatives from the Global Network for Cultural Development, Praise Academy for DanceOrgasmik Intelligence, Politically In-correct, Operation Safe Space, Spiritually Aware Group, We the Forgotten Women, Barbados Youth Action Program, Full Moon Goddess Circle, Sulam Construction & Property Management Services, Omololu The Children’s Foundation and women from all cross sections of the society and the Barbadian diaspora met to discuss strategies on how to assist in eliminating the systemic abuse of youth in the Barbadian society.

This group of organizations and passionate individuals will continue to network and collaborate on several initiatives that support the safety and holistic wellbeing of the wards of the State who are housed at the Government Industrial School (GIS). Preliminary initiatives are scheduled to occur this month of May (designated as Child’s Month) and various short to long term strategies will be implemented until the current structures that enable the aforementioned abuse are dismantled.

The problem of systemic abuse in Barbados started during slavery and still exists today in the form of sexual, physical, and emotional abuse, that impact generations of families.

On one side of the coin, abuse occurs in the home that is often perpetrated by a relative on women, young girls, and young boys.

On the other side of the coin, abuse is inflicted on minors, who are wards of the State in government-run institutions. The situation at GIS and Dodds has sparked outrage from as far back as forty-two years and because no fundamental changes have been made to this penal system for juveniles, the outrage continues today, in 2022.

We have compiled a short-term plan and we are launching our events with a Silent Prayer Walk on Mother’s Day, Sunday 8th May. We have already requested the necessary permit to do so and are awaiting word from the authorities.

The Prayer Walk starts at 6 am on Black Rock Main Road near its junction with Dodson Land and Griffith Lane and is to continue along Black Rock Main Road to its junction with Wavell Avenue and return. Our medium-term effort will target the structural changes through legislation and institutional practices as well as pushing for accountability in crimes against minors.

Our long-term plan is to, through advocacy and strategic action, usher in a juvenile correctional system that is humane and underpinned by the principles of child justice.

Our network of organizations in the Third Sector have and will continue to build their capacity to create programs and deliver training to staff and care-givers of all government-run juvenile penal institutions and any other facility in need of it.

We are adamant that any work with the nation’s children aimed at correcting behavior must honor their sense of dignity and self-worth.

Mindful of the honorable intentions of this government, we anticipate that they will be willing to engage us and make use of the wealth of knowledge and experience that we are gathering in this umbrella body of network of organizations. Our initiatives and advocacy also need the women of Barbados who have been the backbone of this society since the 17th Century to stand up for this transformation.

We also need to have the support of the good men and the youth to let it be known that we expect better of our government for all our people.

Our success depends on the public of Barbados to prevent a situation that is still unfolding from ever occurring again where minors without a voice have nowhere to run, no one to talk to and feel that the only way out of an abusive situation is suicide. Though we can not put ourselves in their shoes we can become their voice across this nation and beyond.

To the girls of GIS, we want you to know that we have not forgotten you. Our prayer is that you are the last group of girls on this island that experience these atrocities at the hands of the State.

Women in Action can be contacted at [email protected] #Saveourgirls. Connect with us on Facebook.

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