Unspeakable attacks on our children


Monday, August 27, 2018

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I had been trying to find the time to read a recent report on the prevention of violence against Jamaican women and children, but on Saturday I had to make the time. I had to make the time because of the recent horrific murders of 13-year-old Shanoya Wray and 14-year-old Yetanya Francis.

The Jamaica Observer reported that Shanoya's alleged killer is “Trinidadian teacher Sanju Maharaj, who is currently before the court on a sex charge with her as a complainant”. Shanoya's remains were found at the teacher's house five days after she went missing.

TVJ news showed Yetanya's grieving mother who said her daughter had gone to the shop about 8 o'clock last Thursday evening, and that when she did not return she went to the police station after midnight but found it closed because there was a power cut. The following morning, they found Yetanya's partly burnt body, and evidence that she was a victim of rape. It is reported that residents had heard cries of 'Rape!' but none came to her aid. It is hard to judge why rescuers did not come to her aid in a community where well-armed 'dons' still exist.

Yetanya's murder comes one year after high school student 17-year-old Mickolle Moulton was shot to death in the same community. In June of this year, a nine-year old student in Westmoreland was murdered, and a 13-year-old schoolboy charged for her death.

We are not short of agencies and committees dedicated to the prevention of violence against women and children, but with the escalation of murder and abuse of women and children, this has become a national emergency.

We therefore welcome the study and recommendations of a report, 'How to Reduce Violence Against Women & Children in Jamaica' prepared by a committee chaired by Dr Marcia Forbes. Members are: Joyce Hewett, Woman Inc; Rosalee Gage Grey, Child Development Agency; Diahann Gordon Harrison, Children's Advocate; Christopher Harper, Jamaica Youth Advocacy Network; Nekeisha Sewell Lewis, Women's Resource Outreach Centre; Dr Michael Abrahams, Protect our Children; Rodje Malcolm, Jamaicans For Justice; O'Neil Grant, representing the labour unions; Carol Narcisse, civil society advocate; and Joan Grant Cummings, gender specialist.

The committee has identified these three priorities to reduce violence against women and children: Public Education, Victim Support, and Police Training. The report notes that Jamaica has “ample resources”, but suffers from a “silo mentality”; thus the committee is urging “greater collaboration and coordination between the public, private and NGO sectors. I recommend close study of the document at

Two organisations which I know well are mentioned, WMW Jamaica (formerly Women's Media Watch) led by Patricia Donald Phillips, and The Women's Leadership Initiative (WLI) led by Chorvelle Johnson. WMW, which celebrates its 30th anniversary this year, has been pounding the pavement, educating Jamaicans about gender issues, collaborating with Sistren to reach grass-roots communities. WLI has been sponsoring a series of workshops titled 'Darkness to Light' to educate teachers on the warning signs of abuse.

It would have been useful to have a representative of the Umbrella Group of Jamaican churches on this committee. Yes, there have been widely reported incidents of sexual crimes by members of the clergy, but these are in the minority, and our churches remain important to the welfare of communities.

I can recall about a decade ago when a colleague told me that her child was at the age to be prepared for first communion, but that there had been so much negative reports about priests that she was afraid to get her son involved. I was pleased to tell her that our pastor was one of the most decent human beings I had ever met.

We can become so distracted by the negatives that we become blind to the positives. There is no stronger fighter against human trafficking than Rev Dr Margaret Fowler of Hope United Church. The founder of the Theodora Foundation in Negril that gives support to victims of human trafficking, Dr Fowler has asked her fellow clergy members to do more against this scourge. She has strict guidelines as to who can interact with children at her church.

An Observer report in July noted, “She said that after the scandals, her church developed a child protection policy which prohibits members of her congregation and pastors from interacting with children unless they have submitted fingerprints, obtained a police record, and participated in the training. She also recommended that churches have on file proper documentation of their members, including volunteers.”

The Violence Prevention Alliance led by Dr Elizabeth Ward will also be participating in an international 10-country initiative to end violence against children, and we look forward to the launch by Prime Minister Andrew Holness next month. Dr Ward related that she is encouraged by such community activities as the initiative in Allman Town where a youth club is organising math races and other such events to promote peace and unity in the area.

Elder Abuse

As our elderly population increases, abuse of the elderly is also on the rise, and so we applaud the Green Paper with revisions to the National Policy for Senior Citizens tabled by Minister of Labour and Social Security Shahine Robinson. Those elderly suffering from dementia cannot speak for themselves, so we need to make it compulsory that anyone who knows about elder abuse and does not report it is liable for prosecution, as mandated in the Child Care and Protection Act.

Let us bear in mind that there are various forms of elder abuse: discriminatory abuse or ageism; financial abuse; neglect; physical abuse; psychological and emotional abuse; sexual abuse; verbal abuse. Please ensure that your beloved family members and friends are protected.

Happy 95th birthday, Norman Jarrett

Yesterday, the spry educator Norman Jarrett celebrated his 95th birthday. An active member of the Kiwanis Club of Downtown Kingston, Mr Jarrett and his wife Cecile have been conducting a Literacy Improvement Programme in partnership with the service club since 2011. The winner of a Kiwanis International Signature Award, the programme has directly benefited over 1,200 children. In addition, about 40 teachers have improved their teaching skills in literacy and it is estimated that a further 3,000 students have indirectly benefited from this.

Mr Jarrett continues to drive himself, play the piano and enjoys travelling to visit his children and extended family. Happy birthday to this generous and exemplary Jamaican.

Farewell, Anthony Lue

We had an inspiring thanksgiving service on Saturday for our church brother and usher Anthony Lue. Many of us could not hold back the tears as we remembered the cheerful and faithful service of Tony who would volunteer for almost every funeral. Ushers Association President Andre 'Jeff' Schwab recalled Tony's humility, diligence and happy disposition, a veritable ray of sunshine in our lives. Tony had a legendary garden, and his plants and flowers were enjoyed by many a household. Well done, good and faithful servant. Rest in peace, Anthony Lue.

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