Our National (Regional) Children Emergency

Our national children emergency

The consequences of the national failure to deal intelligently and sensitively with the needs of our children stare us in the face today with the staggering figures for teenage pregnancies.
The preference by some to keep our children in the darkness of ignorance, and the inability of our educators and policymakers to develop persuasive responses to parental fears and anxieties have helped to foster the environment in which a 12-year-old can be led into a situation of rape and be pitchforked into the trauma of childhood pregnancy.
Perhaps the problem has been one of terminology. When the proposal of sex education in schools was first floated in the 1970s, significant sections of the national community expressed outrage, many charging the authorities with introducing their children to pornography and with corrupting the children’s minds. Despite the sexual overtones of so much of the popular culture, the word “sex” remains surprisingly taboo in many quarters.
In the context of this hesitation to arm our children with knowledge about their bodies and the risks they face from sexual predators, we should not be surprised by the report from the Minister of Education that over 2,500 teenage girls get pregnant each year for men in the 25 to 40-year age group.
Our little girls have always been prey to predatory adults. That was the main argument for educating them for their own protection and for building a wall of protection around them through information, the law and social support.
Clearly, we are been failing our girls, many of whom are growing up to be mothers without the ability to protect their own girls.
Far too many of our little children, girls and boys, are living with the secret terror of sexual abuse. Were it not for the obvious signs of pregnancy, the abuse of many girls would go undetected. Given cultural attitudes, who knows how many of our boys are being abused in silence.
The case of the pregnant 12-year-old, which is by no means unique in this country, should be a wake-up call for parents, social interests and the authorities. We hope that the recently appointed Children’s Task Force will give some ballast to the work of the Children’s Authority which is now the key national agency with responsibility for the welfare of our children.
With the relevant resources at its disposal, the Children’s Authority must take on the challenge of protecting our children. While there are many departments and institutions working with young people, the Children’s Authority must embrace its role as our youngsters’ main protector. The country is counting on the Authority to make a difference by finding the means and developing the strategies for countering illogical fears and dysfunctional cultural attitudes that work against our children.
Children growing up in ignorance about their bodies and their rights are inevitably going to become parents who are unequal to the task of parenting. With each passing year, the challenge becomes more difficult. We must intervene now. The price of failing our girls and boys is simply too high.
(From The Trinidad Express)
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