Category Archives: Children & Youth Articles

Panos Caribbean Giving the Region’s Youth a Voice

Indi McLymont-Lafayette and Cossy Roosevelt at a recent Youth Journalism workshop in Haiti funded by The MacArthur Foundation (July 2011)

Andrea Downer, August 2011 – UNITED NATIONS has designated August 12th International Youth Day. The UN believes that on August 12th and EVERY day, youth should be able to participate in decision-making in their families, communities, and nations. Panos Caribbean has been assisting young people in the Caribbean to express themselves for 25 years in their own voices through the organization’s Youth Journalism programme which trains young people in basic journalism skills and assist them to articulate and advocate about issues that affect them through the media.

Our Youth Journalism programme aims to empower youth to advocate effectively on issues that affect them by utilizing the media. Panos’ Youth Journalism Programme “Our Own Voices — Youth Communicating Through the Media” targets young people aged 12 to 16 who are marginalized or vulnerable but possess strong leadership and communication skills. We then trained them to become effective communicators and youth advocates utilizing five interlinked approaches,” Executive Director of Panos Caribbean, Jan Voordouw explained.

According to Mr. Voordouw, Panos has established 16 youth journalism programmes in the Caribbean including in Jamaica, Haiti and St. Lucia over the past 25 years.

The group in St. Lucia recently produced two short videos with Public Service Announcements based on article 13 of the United Nations Conventions Rights of the Child which speaks to the rights of children to free speech and the ability to express themselves via various media as long as those rights do not infringe on the rights of others.

The PSAs were developed by the young people as part of their training programme which is being funded by the Commonwealth Foundation and Panos Global AIDS Programme (GAP).

Jean Claude Louis, a consultant with Panos Caribbean who manages the project in St. Lucia admits that child rights is an issue there. This is supported by the findings of a 2005 study by UNICEF on Child Vulnerability in Barbados, St. Lucia and St. Vincent.

Jean Claude Louis, a consultant with Panos Caribbean who manages the project in St. Lucia admits that child rights is an issue there. This is supported by the findings of a 2005 study by UNICEF on Child Vulnerability in Barbados, St. Lucia and St. Vincent.

The study was conducted during 2005 by the Governments of Barbados, St. Lucia and St. Vincent and the Grenadines with technical and financial assistance from UNICEF.

As part of the study, a random household survey of households in St. Lucia found that more than half of the children there were ‘at risk’. According to the study, the main risk factors were food insecurity (or poverty) followed by chronic illness of a parent.

Poverty is the major obstacle to accessing nominally free social services, including education and health care,” the study stated.

The study also found that the abuse of children – particularly sexual abuse, was a serious concern to many.

The issue is hugely complicated by a lack of data, by inhibitions and denial, and by a lack of capacity to protect victims and those at risk,” the study continued.

Physical abuse, including corporal punishment, was also a significant concern – particularly as it still forms part of the ‘tradition’ of schools, the judicial system and the home in St. Lucia. In addition, children with disabilities and children infected or affected by HIV/AIDS were found to be especially vulnerable despite the fact that very little was known about them and not enough was being done for them.

There were also concerns that more children were being drawn into crime and the trade in and use of drugs, particularly in St. Lucia and St. Vincent, due to a combination of poor quality education and lack of career prospects.

While that study was done five years ago, the issue is still sufficiently of concern in St. Lucia and other parts of the Caribbean. In May this year (2011) the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States held the first of a series of regional workshops with media in St. Lucia.

The series of workshops are aimed at raising the priority they give to children without compromising child protection rights and privileges.

Communications and Programming Coordinator at the Eastern Caribbean UNICEF Office, Lisa Mc Clean-Trotman welcomed the training noting that the current global economic downturn could make children more vulnerable to domestic violence and child labour.

During times of economic recession children’s stories which are soft news stories, tend to go on the back burner , but it’s also important to recognize that these are also times when children become more vulnerable to exploitation as parents and providers become stressed, Also parents might perhaps use children to help better economic conditions so more than ever this is the time when you need to be more vigilant about child protection issues and also to report them and raise awareness about them as well as to give children, their parents and guardians a voice,” she stated.

During the series of seminars throughout the OECS, the media houses will be looking at issues such as interviewing children, investigating, reporting and writing stories about abused children, legal guidelines on reporting on children in need of special protection as well as the convention on the rights of the child.

Recognizing that children and young people are best at articulating their concerns, Panos Caribbean is giving them the opportunity to do so. In these two videos the compelling voices of young people from St. Lucia defiantly states their rights according to the UN Convention. Please take a moment to listen.

Early HIV Planning Work Saving the Lives of Jamaican Children

By: Andrea Downer, Journalist

Dr. Tracy Evans-Gilbert

Kingston, Jamaica. July 29, 2011- The recent 31% decline in the number of pediatric deaths in Jamaican children announced by Minister of Health, Rudyard Spencer is not a surprise to Dr. Tracy Evans-Gilbert, a pediatrician with considerable experience in the care of HIV positive children and their mothers in Jamaica.

Dr. Evans-Gilbert, who is based at the Cornwall Regional Hospital in Montego Bay, Jamaica, says the current overall decline is the result of sustained efforts by persons involved in the HIV fight in Jamaica from as early as the 1990s. She also credits the increased availability and reduced cost of anti-retrovirals for treatment of HIV in children for the positive development.

“It’s a decline we have been seeing since the early days at Bustamante Hospital children when antiretrovirals first became available to those who could afford it,” she stated.

“As the drug became universally accessible across the island we saw at first a decline in hospital stay then fewer admissions. The children’s nutrition improved, they didn’t miss school and less and less children died. Even those who had advanced HIV that affected their brain and slowed their development started walking!” she told Panos Caribbean.

Mr. Spencer made the announcement recently at the launch of Regional HIV/AIDS Testing Day 2011 in Kingston, Jamaica.

According to Dr. Evans-Gilbert, when she began her medical career at the Kingston Bustamante Hospital in Kingston in the 1990s, HIV treatment and care of children was done in a very ad hoc way. Although anti-retrovirals for the treatment of HIV had become available by then, very few persons in Jamaica could afford the drug which was very expensive.

“In those days there was no HIV medication available in Jamaica to give to babies born HIV positive. The most we could do for the babies was treat the infections brought on by the HIV virus, manage their nutrition and try to make them as comfortable as we could,” she explained.

“But there was really nothing we could do and we would tell this to the parents – although not immediately. At that time, those HIV positive babies would not live beyond one year. We referred to them as ‘rapid progressers’ who would develop AIDS very quickly and die shortly after being diagnosed with HIV.”

“Back then, HIV testing was not a part of ante-natal care and so we would only find out that the mothers were HIV positive when they would take their sick babies in for treatment and the babies were diagnosed with HIV,” she stated.

“All of the early challenges in pediatric HIV care and subsequent progress that have been made have been captured in publications over the years by a team of pediatricians across the island, which I am a part of,” Dr. Evans-Gilbert disclosed.

“In the early days of HIV pediatric care in Jamaica, myself and the other doctors who are part of the now island wide team, shared the same frustration with the challenges we faced and had the same passion to see the children survive,” she explained

“We formed the Jamaica Paediatric Perinatal and Adolescents HIV/AIDS Group headed by Professor Celia Christie. The group now leads about eleven paediatric HIV clinics across the island, which were initially launched as outreach clinics in 2003 but are now stand alone clinics. We all still interact with each other as a group and share experiences and best practices. The success of that model, based on research, resulted in an island-wide establishment of standardised care for mothers and their children,” she continued.

Dr. Tracy Evans-Gilbert (in blue dress with stethoscope around her neck) and her Team at the Cornwall Regional Hospital

“In a study on deaths at Cornwall regional hospital due to HIV in children we found antiretroviral was the only factor that determined survival in children who were orphaned, had AIDS or had a rapid progression of the disease,” she continued.

According to Dr. Evans-Gilbert, the Ministry of Health has an aggressive Prevention of Mother to Child Transmission programme that has been yielding significant results.

“Over the last five years at The Cornwall Regional Hospital in Western Jamaica, of 75 HIV infected children, only seven have died and those who survived were more likely to have an improved immune system and suppression of the virus due to antiretrovirals according to lab studies,” she said.

“Over that same five-year period about 400 babies were born to mothers with HIV but only about 3 percent of those babies became HIV infected. Those who died had rapidly progressing disease in infancy and were started on antiretrovirals late.  But that doesn’t happen anymore.  Now that mothers are identified in pregnancy, more babies have a chance of survival when they are enrolled in the prevention of mother to child transmission programme and receive preventative treatment,” she explained.

“It is uncommon for new born babies to be infected and when this happens it is usually because part of the preventative programme has been compromised. As soon as babies are identified in early infancy as positive, life saving antiretroviral agents are started when they are still healthy preventing any progression of the disease,” she continued.

“Compared to the early days of the epidemic when I watched children die due to lack of treatment the mothers and families now have hope. Our team is encouraged to keep pushing until we have less and less newly infected babies and a healthy childhood and longer survival for those who are already infected along with their infected parents.” (End29/07/2011)

NASA Scientists for Regional Training Camp Targeting Blind Caribbean Youth

By Adelle Roopchand, Journalist

Patrick Lafayette in Portland Cottage, Clarendon, Jamaica in June 2011 doing MC duties for a community stage show put on my the Voices for Climate Change Education Project, a project of Panos Caribbean and the Mocho Community Development Association and other partners that uses popular reggae artistes to spread climate change and biodiversity conservation messages.

Port of Spain, Trinidad. July 15, 2011 - Fourteen blind youths from across the Caribbean are currently in Trinidad and Tobago participating in the Torres Foundation developmental camp featuring training by scientists from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) in the United States and other noted trainers.

Scientist Dr. Craig Moore, Space Shuttle Commander Hoot Gibson and Dan Oates of NASA will discuss Space Science Careers and Technology for the Blind.

The camp entitled “Camp Can Do 2011” began in Tobago on Saturday, July 16 and will run until next Saturday, July 23, 2011. The week-long camp will also focus on Media and Communications and Financial Management.

Blind Veteran Jamaican broadcaster/producer, Patrick LaFayette and Trinidad based Panos Caribbean journalist/producer, Adelle Roopchand will focus on the basic Journalism and media training.

The young people – hailing from Jamaica, Trinidad, Antigua, and St. Lucia  – will also be trained in basic money management by the Trinidad born-US based financial expert Allison Questel.

Also RBC Royal Bank, Scarborough has invited the campers into the branch to talk about careers in banking.

“The Torres Foundation is pleased and excited with the line up of innovative and groundbreaking workshops that have been scheduled. I know that these sessions will make a significant difference in the lives of these young people,” said Ancil Torres Camp Director and President of the Torres Foundation.

The Torres Foundation’s mission is to promote the educational, cultural, and social development of blind people in Trinidad and Tobago and the Caribbean in an effort to bring about independence, career opportunities, and overall life enhancement.

Since July 2009, the Torres Foundation has been hosting Camp Can do to provide blind youths with positive and motivating experiences that will enhance their personal growth and development with a series of educational workshops and special activities. It will be held at the Sunshine Holiday Apartments, Bon Accord in Tobago.

“Camp Can Do seeks to focus campers on what they can do in spite of blindness and away from what they cannot do because they are blind,” said Torres.
The Campers will also be treated to an array of social and sporting activities including: Fishing, nature walk excursions, horseback riding and swimming.  They will be given the opportunity to develop self advocacy skills where Campers will take on the roles of leaders and assert themselves in dealing with their disability issues.

Camp Can Do has received significant funding from RBC Royal Bank andPerkins School for the Blind. The camp takes place at Sunshine Holiday Apartments guest house in Bon Accord and Trinizuela College.  (End14-07-12).

For further information please contact: Kashmir Mitchell at (868) 623-0940or email kmitchell@torresfoundation.org or Adelle Roopchand, Media Relations Officer at (868) 389-8040.

Panos Videos on Street Boys and their Vulnerability to Contracting HIV to be Aired on CVM Television

Kalilah Enriquez Listens intently as 15 year old Andre talks about his experiences living on the streets of Kingston and wiping windscreens for a living. His cousin, 14 year-old Romario who also hustles on Kingston’s streets, listens in the background. PHOTO: Whyte-Hall Delroy

“A work mi a work fi my money enno! You see this?” he asked in reference to the old wind shield wiper he was gripping in his hand, “It better than even work! Cause when you a work, you haffi wait pon a pay day. Everyday me get pay when me have this inna mi han’!” 16 year old Kemar declared as he sat on the concrete median that divides the busy dual roadway at Portia Simpson Miller Square in Kingston, Jamaica.

Holding the tattered windshield wiper tightly he looked intently into the camera, his tone firm and defiant. “Yuh see how this old!? Mi naah dash it whey! It can make me earn one million dollar before the week done a juss me fi save the money!” he continued.

His loose hair processed and shaved at the hairline. The hardened youth from the tough innercity community of Tivoli Gardens in Western Kingston spoke with the authority of someone who has seen and experienced too much at such a tender age.

Kemar is one of several young boys who were interviewed by CVM Television’s anchor and journalist, Kalilah Enriquez during a three-month media fellowship which examined the issue of HIV and Human Rights and focused on the streets boys and their vulnerability to contracting HIV and other sexually transmitted infections.

Wife of Jamaican Prime Minister – Lorna Golding addresses UN on the Elimination of new HIV Infections in Children

Civil Society not Impressed

Patricia Watson, journalist

Panos Caribbean: June 16, 2011: Lorna Golding, wife of Prime Minister Bruce Golding, was among thirty First Ladies from Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean who gathered at a special event in New York to mobilize support around achieving the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS’ (UNAIDS) vision of Zero new HIV infections among children by 2015. The event was held on the opening day of the United Nations (UN) High Level Meeting on AIDS which took place in New York June 8 – 10.

Mrs. Golding and her counterparts participated in a session entitled, “First Spouses for the Elimination of New HIV Infections in Children”. In her brief presentation Mrs. Golding informed that Jamaica has successfully reduced HIV transmission from mother to child since the inception of its Prevention of Mother-to-Child Transmission (PMTCT) programme in 2004.

The number of HIV positive pregnant women receiving antiretroviral medication has increased significantly from 47 per cent in 2004 to 83 per cent in 2009. This has led to a dramatic reduction in mother-to-child transmission of HIV from 25 per cent in 2002 to below five per cent since,” she said.

Mrs. Golding further noted that stigma associated with HIV and AIDS is one of the reasons pregnant women opt out of testing or don’t access public health services until very late in their pregnancies.

All of us as first spouses, many of us being mothers, can help shatter the misconceptions around HIV by lending our voices to the movement and encouraging women to get tested early,” she noted.

She further noted that she will work to ensure that there is an end to the stigma and discrimination impeding Jamaica’s HIV response.

Civil society representatives who were in attendance at the event felt Mrs. Golding’s presentation was disappointing and lacked clarity in what her plans are as it relates to eliminating vertical transmission of HIV.

I’m disappointed that there were no specific commitments made by the First Spouse on this very critical issue. She only quoted from our national prayer that ‘under God’ Jamaica will play her part in advancing the welfare of the whole human race. I’m surprised she didn’t seize the opportunity to seek specific assistance from the international community to support prevention of vertical transmission in Jamaica,” Legal Advisor, Marginalized Groups AIDS-Free World, Maurice Tomlinson said.

She gave no indication as to what she or the Government plans to do. This makes it palpably clear she and the Government fail to understand the issue of vertical transmission which is not going away but is festering and threatens to explode in our high-sex and multiple/concurrent partners’ context.”

Director of Programmes and Training at Eve for Life, Joy Crawford had similar views.

I found that the contribution lacked specifics or any clear action plan, strategies or projects to be undertaken by the first lady. In her promise to play her part in upholding the national pledge “Before God and all mankind … we anticipate she will develop clear advocacy and interventions that will reduce the current societal, familial and moral stigma and discrimination faced by the young pregnant adolescent female especially those identified as HIV positive,” Mrs. Crawford said.

Also addressing the session was first lady from Haiti, Sophia Martelly. Mrs. Martelly committed to working to increase the involvement of men in the Prevention of Mother-to-child transmission in Haiti; improve sex education for adolescent and to supporting programmes that integrate the empowerment of women and improvement in their economic status.

UNAIDS note that an estimated 1,000 babies are infected with HIV every day, 90 per cent of whom are in countries in sub-Saharan Africa. HIV is also the leading cause of maternal deaths in developing countries. The First Ladies in general agreed to advocate for comprehensive and integrated access to maternal and child health services. They also advocated for an end to gender inequality, gender violence, discrimination and inequitable laws that prevent pregnant women from accessing HIV testing and counselling, prevention, treatment and support services.

On return to their respective countries, some of the First Ladies agreed to advance key action steps to ensure that children are born free from HIV and to promote lifesaving HIV services for women and children. Some of the actions put forward include supporting efforts to: increase the number of centres providing free maternal, newborn and child health services, including treatment to prevent the transmission of HIV from mothers to children; strengthen sexual and reproductive health programmes for adolescents living with HIV and ensure meaningful engagement of people living with HIV.

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