Say Yes for Children campaign launched
President challenges players to match words with actions
Says men must take responsibility for offspring

Stabroek News
August 11, 2001

President Bharrat Jagdeo yesterday challenged the players in the 'Say Yes for Children' campaign to match their words with practical actions in order to make a real impact on the lives of children.

The 'Say Yes For Children' campaign 2001 was launched at the Umana Yana yesterday. It is a worldwide crusade and focuses mainly on making the world a better place for children.

The launching of the campaign in Guyana was done through the efforts of the Ministry of Labour, Human Services and Social Security and the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF).

Part of the campaign is to convince persons to sign a pledge containing ten points. The points are:
* leave no child out;
* put children first;
* care for every child;
* fight HIV/AIDS;
* stop harming and exploiting children;
* listen to children;
* educate every child;
* protect children from war;
* protect the earth for children;
* fight poverty: invest in children.

The launching included a number of cultural pieces by children from all over the country and among those present were Minister within the Ministry of Labour, Human Services and Social Security, Bibi Shadick; UNICEF's Assistant Representative, Dr Sreelakshmi Gururaja; and Coordinator of the National Commission on the Rights of the Child, Shirley Ferguson.

President Jagdeo said yesterday that while there were many campaigns launched and some of them were not making any real impact, any campaign that involved children would be a good campaign.

"But by the end of this campaign if it is not matched by practical actions and commitment from many of you who are here -- to continue to keep in focus some of the declarations made here today -- then we would have wasted our money," the President remarked.

Addressing a large gathering, that included ministers of government, members of the diplomatic corps and a large section of children, the Head of State focused on point number five in the pledge which asks adults to stop harming and exploiting children.

He said that he had been bothered for months by a very important case that involved the alleged abuse of a child which was dismissed. The preliminary inquiry (PI) was not concluded for six years and a judge dismissed the case because of the length of time the PI was taking to conclude. The president noted that it was not the prosecution that held up the case but in fact the judiciary and one member of the magistracy, who after he heard the case for two years suddenly concluded that he knew the person so he could not continue with the case. President Jagdeo noted that since the dismissal of the case he had not heard a word of condemnation from civil society and other organisations in Guyana that speak so much of defending children in Guyana.

On that point the President said, "we just can't make declarations and we just cannot speak on general terms. You are going to be judged. We are all going to be judged, not by how many pledges we sign, but by how we act; our behaviour in those circumstances."

He noted that there were many things that needed to be worked on as he saw the well-being of children being linked in a very integral way to the well-being of the country, the ability of parents to earn a living, the state's ability to provide sound education for children and a number of amenities.

He said these things would work only if those present committed themselves to a few things; the men in the gathering and across Guyana must take responsibility for their children as there were too many single parent families. "If they can make that commitment, that they will take care of their children then, yes we would be working true to the pledge we make today."

The President also called on the women to inculcate some of the values that are important to the children's future.

He said that the churches, temples, mosques, teachers and politicians all have important roles to play in improving the lives of children.

Yesterday's event was one of many planned for the campaign. Others include an essay competition, a rally at the National Park, education month activities, a workshop for children in Region Nine, a cultural presentation in Region Nine, erecting billboards in Region Six, a children's forum, an arts and poetry competition and an international children's day of broadcasting. The campaign runs for the rest of this year.

Shadick at a press briefing on Thursday had given a background to the campaign. Next month, a special summit will be convened in New York where countries will report on what progress they had made since the 1990 world summit for children and also during the campaign.

Dr Gururaja, giving an insight to the global plight of children, referred to a report that stated that armed conflicts killed and maimed more children than soldiers and that 110 million children of primary school age were not going to school.