Campaign to rein in children beggars coming soon – Minister Persaud
By Kurt Campbell
Plans are afoot by the government and more specifically, the Ministry of Human Services and Social Security, to go after children who are forced into the streets to beg and work.
The announcement was made on Friday by Human Services and Social Security Minister, Dr Vindhya Persaud, during her remarks at an event organised by the Ministry of Labour to mark the first-ever World Day Against Child Labour, which will be observed on Saturday, June 12, 2021.
“If you can’t provide for your child, do not send your child out there to be in the workforce. Do not put your child on the streets, and I want to pause here, because we at the Ministry and Childcare and Protection Agency, we are going to move on an extensive campaign to target what’s happening on the streets, where many many children can be seen asking for money,” the Human Services Minister said.
In a passionate appeal for citizens to help curb this practice, she reminded that it is a crime to facilitate this trend when it involves children.
“You don’t know it’s a crime? What we want you to do is to report it. We will get them off the streets, and we will work with their families, to keep them at home and that work has already started,” she added.
Dr Persaud said she understands that sometimes because people are filled with compassion, they will want to help a begging child immediately, but she has proposed a different alternative.
“You can help that child by reporting so we can move that child out of those situations. That’s how you help.”
On the wider issue of child labour, Dr Persaud said Guyanese have become both dismissive and accepting of something that has become entrenched.
“We’ve made it invisible for us to really end the scourge of child labour… we need to recognise it for what it is, report it to all of the agencies that can take action and ensure that we not only report it but we keep following up again and again until we do not see that child in forced labour,” she told the gathering outside the Ministry of Labour on Brickdam, Georgetown.
She pointed to how the COVID-19 pandemic has affected families economically allowing for a situation where children are being pushed into the workforce.
This level of continued exploitation leads to abuse, she said.
On the topic of abuse, Minister Persaud said the number of affected boys is moving perilously close to the number of girls affected by child abuse.
More than 600 girls and more than 400 boys are affected. “That’s how bad it is. This is what we know because these cases are reported. And I can see, with some level of confidence. If those are the figures. Similarly, the reported figures that we are looking at for child labour are probably a lot higher than what is out there for our consumption, simply because it has become accepted.”
She believes, however, that ending child labour is not an impossible task.
“We used to hear the older folks say it takes a village to raise a child. I want to say to you, it takes a country with people of compassion, people of sound moral and ethical fiber, people with soul and heart to remove children from abusive practices, and children from the whole social ill of child labour, be a part of the movement, be a part of acting now, be a part of our country, effectively saying we don’t want any child in the labour force.”