During a virtual Pre-Emptive Stakeholders’ Meeting that addressed the topic “Keeping Children Safe” on November 9, 2020, Minister of National Security the Hon. Marvin. H. Dames said that the meeting sought to dialogue and coordinate efforts to facilitate a comprehensive and integrated platform to prevent, protect and defend the nation’s youth against violence, while aiming to end the same.
“In a study conducted (Hillis et. al, 2016), it was revealed that approximately one billion children between ages 2 to 17 years experienced some type of violence,” Minister Dames pointed out. “The types of violence ranged from physical, sexual, and/or emotional abuse.
“More disturbing was that the perpetrators of these crimes included parents and family members, caregivers, peers, and non-family members.” Among those taking part in the meeting included his Ministry’s Permanent Secretary Marco Rolle, Under Secretary Cheryl Darville, Dr. Jennifer Bethel, of the Research & Development Unit, and Legal In-House Counsel Paul Jones; Deputy Dir. of the Department of Education Sharon L. Pinder; Deputy Director of the Department of Social Services Kim Sawyer; Assistant Director of Legal Affairs Morlette Johnson; Royal Bahamas Police Force (RBPF) Commissioner of Police Paul Rolle; Commander of the Royal Bahamas Defence Force Captain Raymond King; Commissioner of Correctional Services Charles Murphy; Sr. Information Officer at the Bahamas Information Services Eric Rose; Youth Officer in the Division of Youth Ingrid Sears-Deveaux; Bishop Simeon Hall; Chairman and Consultant Advisory Council on Crime Dr. David Allen; Assistant Advisory on Crime Keva Bethell and Council Member RBPF Sergeant Kendra Wallace; Director of the Bahamas National Drug Council, Chair of the National Child Protection Council, and Director of the Children Advocacy Clinic at the Bahamas Crises Center Dr. Novia T. Carter-Lookie; and National Neighbourhood Watch Council Co-Chairs Alesha Hart and Keno Wong.
Minister Dames cited other researchers (Hillis et. al, 2016; Richter et al, 2018) who, he said, contended that children who have endured violence directly or indirectly, more often than not, experience lifelong health, physical, and emotional harm.
More disconcerting, he noted, was the fact that, when children are exposed to high incidences of violence, they are more likely to display immunity to future violence exposure, uncaring attitudes and behaviours towards others and become perpetrators of violence.
“Complementarily and equally disturbing has been the impact of COVID-19 on children enduring and/or exposed to violence,” he said. “The global pandemic continues, and early research postulates that it is having disturbing consequences on our youth. Primarily, the pandemic has made children more vulnerable and less protected, especially to violence in their homes and communities.”
Citing the 2010 Census of Population The Bahamas, Minister Dames pointed out that the country had approximately 113,375 children between the ages of 0 to 17 years of age dispersed throughout the archipelago, of which, he said, 55,000 were
compulsory-age pupils, according to the Ministry of Education’s Research and Planning Unit. Reports of children being victims of violence or perpetrators of violence were similar to global trends, he added.
“According to a study carried out by The Family: People Helping People Project (2020), approximately 17% of its participants had a significant Adverse Childhood Experiences score and a history of being a perpetrator of violence, Minister Dames said. He added that the recent deaths of three children in The Bahamas revealed that their demise was due to motives unrelated to them.
“Though heart-wrenching, these incidences serves as reminders that while crime is trending down, much work remains in our efforts to protect our youth,” he said. “As the Heads of respective agencies with responsibility for safety and security; social services; correctional rehabilitation; mental/psychological treatment; educational instruction; community development; and the socio-economic well- being of children, we must ensure that our individual organizational mandates forms a collective pursuit to prevent, protect and defend the safety and security of our children,” Minister Dames said.
“That is why today’s virtual stakeholders’ meeting is so significant,” he added. “Our goal is to firstly highlight that the prevention of violence against our youth has to be a priority for everyone in The Bahamas. Minister Dames said that the individual agency initiative includes, but is not limited to the National Neighourhood Watch Programme; Defence Force’s Rangers Programme; Junior Achievement; Boys Scouts / Girl Guides and group therapy at the Family, to name a few.
“These programmes are complementary to National Security’s investment in technologies such as Marco’s Alert, he added. “This integrated system will provide warning alerts in real- time to assist in the safe return of children to their loved ones.”
The stakeholders’ meetings, Minister Dames said, are intended to remove the silo operations within agencies responsible for children. “These stepping stones will foster cooperation and better coordination, as we collectively formulate effective, feasible and sustainable solutions to prevent and/or reduce our youth’s exposure to violence,” he said.
“The ultimate goal will be to achieve Sustainable Development Goal 16.2, which focuses on the protection of children from all forms of violence — which is fundamentally highlighted in the UN’s Convention on the Rights of the Child.”
“On behalf of the Ministry of National Security, I would like to thank you for partnering with us as we work together to close the gap between our agencies,” Minister Dames added. “I wish you the best in today’s meetings and look forward to joining you in the near future.
“Before I close I would like to leave you with these words: Let us be the ones who don’t accept that a child experiences violence or is exposed to violence because we have not done enough to protect them. Let us be the vanguard for change in protecting our vulnerable youth.”