Recently, someone I hold in high regards stated, “how we in Grenada treat our elders is an indication of the type of people we are.”
In my opinion, the same goes for our minors, as Bob Marley says in the song, Real Situation, “Once a man and twice a child. And everything is just for a while.” So why are we, yes, ah say we, is all ah we, and yes, YOU leave dem children alone, allowing our vulnerable children to be subjected to continuous sexual and child abuse?
A primary causal factor of child sexual abuse in Grenada tends to be centered around poverty, especially for children from the ages of 12 to 18. The Child (Protection and Adoption) Act defines a child as anyone under the age of 18 years of age. That cycle of poverty begins in the family unit. Far too often when we are made aware of heinous sexual crimes we show community outrage, but that fades with time (2 weeks). We get back to normal and remain quiet until the next sensational crime occurs when the alleged perpetrator’s details become viral on social media.
The Strategic Plan for Educational Enhancement and Development 2006-2015 was created to develop Grenada’s educational sector. With that document in hand, the Government of Grenada with funding from various non-governmental agencies and other stakeholders created programmes to protect our children. Underprivileged parents can now access the School Uniform Assistance Programme, School Feeding Programme, National Textbook Programme, SEED, and so much more assistance. So, ‘who minin dem chilren, d government or dey parents’? What is the role of a parent, are parents abdicating their roles? The least we ask of you as parents is to ensure your children are safe. Because yuh doh have to save money to buy school books, uniform, bus fee, and food in September, doh mean yuh gamble and party all deh time. Stay home and protect your children. Ah say watch dem.
In a 2008 study (today, I am sure the level is much higher due to Covid-19) youth unemployment was at 36% of the total number of unemployment. We have programmes such as MPower and the New Imani programme to develop our youths and young parents. These programmes were created to stem the tide of poverty and should be fully embraced as a means of protecting our children from abuse.
The Government of Grenada oversees a housing programme to assist underprivileged and vulnerable individuals to ensure the right to safe and secure housing. By providing housing assistance, this means that money meant for house repairs can now be used for another purpose. My fellow Grenadians, use the money wisely, invest in your education, children’s education so their lives can be much better than yours. My grandmother taught me that if she has a one-bedroom house, then I had to study and work hard to build a two-bedroom house; each generation should do better than the one before. Intergenerational wealth should be instilled in each generation, if yuh doh teaching yuh children dat, den doh watch wen odder people have. The bible says, “You shall not covet your neighbour’s house; you shall not covet your neighbour’s wife, nor his male servant, nor his female servant, nor his ox, nor his donkey, nor anything that is your neighbour’s.”
The SEED (Support for Education, Empowerment and Development) programme was created to decrease poverty within the tri-island state as poverty is a causal factor for child sexual abuse. Parents, send the children to school because the Government of Grenada and other stakeholders are now providing vehicles to protect our vulnerable children. Education lifts one out of poverty. Take up your responsibility as parents and watch dem children. Are we to now charge parents and caregivers of such children who experience such heinous crimes with child abandonment, child endangerment, neglect, as a co-conspirator, aiding and abetting, child abuse? As the saying goes, “the upholder is worse than de tief”. Maybe we need to take a different approach and focus on prevention using a holistic approach to educate the child, parent, abuser (at times the same abusers were abused as children).
As our institutions of higher education such as TAMCC and St George’s University (SGU) are about to open their doors in September, one asks the question, where is their social responsibility towards victims of abuse? There was a recent incident where a woman facing domestic violence and her children facing sexual abuse were able to leave after she furthered her education. Can these institutions (their students) offer victims volunteer tutoring so victims of abuse can further their education to be able to leave the abusive situation? Volunteerism and giving back to society should be a core tenant of our esteemed institutions of higher learning.
The school holidays are upon us and our children are at home. The sad reality is that prior to Covid-19 a perpetrator may be working, so out of the house from 7 am to 5 pm, and when he or she arrives at home there are other individuals to protect the child. But a significant number of individuals are working from home, this means increased exposure to potential abuse. What protections are there to protect our children?
From a very young age, our children need to be taught safe behaviour. In 2019 the Ontario government revised the sex-ed programme for grades 1 to 8, each child was taught sexual safety. There was tremendous push back primarily from religious groups and the addition of LGBTQ+ issues. The reality is that the same bible says, “He that is without sin among you, let him cast the first stone at her.”, the same bible teaches us to love one another, the same bible teaches us to protect our children. We all know that the majority of parents in Grenada do not discuss the issue of sex with their children, I commend the ones who do. Children now are internet savvy and knowledgeable regarding sexuality, so let us teach them safety. We all need to come together and protect our children.
Growing up as a child, the war on drugs was on the front burner. I was bombarded with the slogan, “stay away from drugs” from different mediums. It has shaped my personal views and morality around the issue, I was taught that it was wrong. Today, we need such campaigns to protect our children where they are continually reminded to say “doh touch meh”. They are to be taught that interference by an adult is wrong, to report the interference to a trusted individual.
We live in a global village and so adopting practices which work is always best practice. Zimbabwe has devised a programme called the Friendship Bench Project. Simply put, they have put structure to a practice we already practice here. The project is centred around community healing; grandmothers are taught to provide basic assistance for mental health and safety for community members. In River Road, I pass the lady sitting by the community bathroom. Typically, she is speaking to someone residing in the neighbourhood. At times, a friendly face can make or break one’s day. Can our children be taught to go to such an individual in the community to discuss challenges with confidentiality, safety, and assistance at its core?
We know that education lifts one out of poverty. A well-educated woman experiencing domestic violence or her children experiencing sexual abuse is able to pack her 2 suitcases and walk away, and start over much easier. A well-educated woman experiencing sexual harassment in the workplace is able to accept being fired or leave the job voluntarily leaving with her dignity, self-respect and integrity as opposed to giving in to unwanted advances from her superior, “no wuk fuh wuk”.
There is an old adage, “Give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish, and you feed him for a lifetime.” So, as we would say, “get up and get.” As our children further their education in September let us remember our national anthem, “Aspire, build, advance, as one people, one family. God bless our nation.”
Tricia Simon is an Attorney-at-Law called to the bar in the State of Grenada, Carriacou and Petite Martinique and the Province of Ontario, Canada.