Fifteen young persons on Tuesday (July 31) received their certificates of authority as members of the Child Development Agency Children’s Advisory Panel.
The panel which comprises 15 members between the ages of 12 and 17, has been established to provide child-friendly guidance to the CDA’s CEO, executive management team and advisory board, on a wide variety of issues that include national child-centred policies; programme design and development and new and emerging issues affecting children, among other matters.
The ceremony took place at the Knutsford Court Hotel in Kingston on Tuesday (July 31).
Minister of Youth and Culture the Hon. Lisa Hanna said that the CDA Children’s Advisory Panel’s launch signaled that the agency was actively encouraging the participation of children in decision-making, as a national best practice in keeping with national laws and international Conventions.
“It is in keeping with our view to give tangible manifestations to these laws and international conventions, and in keeping with our belief as a Government that consulting with children and incorporating their views into policy and programme planning and implementation is critical,” the Minister said.
Encouraging the children to make their mark and to keep striving for excellence, Minister Hanna noted that establishing a structure that would give children a voice in national issues was a fitting way to enter into the 50th Independence celebrations.
The Panel members who will serve for two years, were drawn from a wide cross-section of society representing schools
key child-centred groups; community organizations as well as from among children in State care.
Campion College student Charles Young who was elected chairperson of the
CDA Children’s Advisory Panel vowed that the responsibility given to the members of the panel would not be taken for granted.
“Being part of the panel means that we have a huge responsibility as individuals. CDA will consult with us and incorporate our views in their plans, programmes and policies to create a better society for children.
He added, “The panel is committed to being role models; children’s advocate in our own rights and we intend to serve as the eyes, ears and voice of our colleagues.
Mr. Young explained that the group had already agreed on a code of conduct, as well as met to elect officers to serve on the panel.
“By the end of the these two years, we don’t intend to just try our best to make it a great one, but instead to be legends, living emblems of all the positives that comes from child participation, because children are innovators,” Mr. Young said.
Observing the orgainsation’s long history of child participation, CDA’s CEO Carla Francis-Edie noted that the establishment of the panel was the latest initiative to ensure that the voices of children were not drowned out amidst the flurry of our public policy prescriptions.
“Our views are underpinned by a firm belief that the organization does better when the voices of children are taken into consideration and when they have the opportunity to impact policies that affect their lives," Mrs. Edie noted.
Mrs. Edie explained that much work had gone into preparing the children for the road ahead, expressing confidence that the youngsters would be able to deliver on all the expectations.
“I believe that you will be able to make an invaluable contribution to the growth of the CDA by helping us to get a fresh, exciting and youthful perspective on the work we do, and more importantly to help transform the lives of all the nation’s children.
Chairperson of the CDA Advisory Board Maxine Henry Wilson congratulated the CDA on the landmark achievement.
“Our children have much to say --- and they should not have to shout or behave in a dysfunctional manner to gain our attention.
“Fifty years ago, many of us who now offer leadership to this country were children and we were mentored, encouraged and nurtured. As we move across the stage of governance and decision-making, we must ensure that we are succeeded by others who play their roles responsibly and effectively,” Mrs. Henry-Wilson said.
UNICEF Representative to Jamaica Robert Fuderich noted that by establishing the Children’s Advisory Panel, the CDA was “walking the talk,” adding that the agency with the mandate for child protection was now providing a channel for the voices of children to be heard in decisions that affected their protection.
Mr. Fuderich explained that four separate articles of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, gave children the right of free expression; thought, conscience and religion; the right to assemble, and the right to express their views on all matters that affected them.
“Child protection under the CRC is an on-going process of children’s expression and active involvement in decision-making at different levels in matters that concern them. It requires information-sharing and dialogue between children and adults based on mutual respect and requires that full consideration of their views be given, taking into account the child’s age and maturity," he underscored.
In a message read by CDA’s Director of Policy, Planning and Evaluation Newton Douglas, Director-General of the Inter-American Children’s Institute Marcia D’ Aguilar
congratulated Jamaica for being the first State of the Caribbean to have this initiative.
, “I am pleased to add Jamaica to the States of Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Paraguay and Uruguay as States that have an active child participation model.
“We acknowledge the efforts of the Child Development Agency in the development of policies and programmes for the promotion of child participation we thank and congratulate the Jamaican children and adolescents for their presence and commitment”
Ardenne High School performed a piece called “Phenomenal Woman” while advisory panel Member Roshawna Byndloss recited her original poem Mi ah talk on behalf of Jamaica’s children. Evangelist Kevin McKoy of the Central Village Seventh Day Adventist Church invited blessings on the function while CDA Advisory Board Member Tamian Beckford gave an overview of the genesis of the Children’s Advisory Panel.
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