UNICEF holds “Child Friendly” Board Meeting
Friday, July 31st, 2015
On Wednesday, July 22nd, the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) held a general meeting at the Best Western Biltmore Plaza Hotel in Belize City. The meeting endorsed the Sustainable and Child Friendly Municipalities Initiative (SCFM), a joint initiative of United Nations Development Program (UNDP) and UNICEF, in close collaboration with the Ministry of Labour, Local Government, Rural Development, New European Media (NEM), Immigration and the Belize Mayor’s Association (BMA). Members from the various committees from across the country attended the event designed to share ideas and listen to guidance towards the goal of becoming a certified child friendly community. Present at the meeting was His Lordship Mayor of Belize City Darrell Bradley, special invited guest from Costa Rica Georgina Zamora, among others.
After protocol was established, Mayor Bradley gave the welcome address. “Today is the beginning about making our towns and cities more supportive, encouraging, and safe and fulfilling for the most vulnerable in our society, especially our children. I hope that this workshop will be very useful, and will ignite the passion in each and everyone so we get the work moving forward. At the same time I hope that the development, plans and strategies put these initiatives in place and become hugely successful,” said Bradley. He added that the workshop should be a forum for all attendees to develop ideas to promote their municipalities and become child friendly communities.
Special invited guest Zamora explained the situation of children in Costa Rica and how programs similar to this are helping them. “In Costa Rica we are assisting children that live in the poorest areas of the country. These areas are near mountains where their parents work on coffee plantations, the vulnerability is extremely high with a spike in teenage pregnancy and children’s rights being violated,” explained Zamora, “There are special centers which provide young women with education and other methods of uplifting themselves after having a baby. The children in those remote villages are now getting assistance with housing, food and health aid.” She added that such help is to ensure that the children have the adequate resources in order to enjoy a better standard of living. Such achievement is expected to happen in Belize. Zamora emphasized that key to the success of the program depends on everyone working together; the government and the stakeholders.
Kay-De Vaughn, who is the Project Manager, gave a few remarks regarding the action plan that every committee will do. “The action plan will start today, however we expect it to be completed by December of 2015,in order to certify your municipality as child friendly. As you all know the plan should address the needs of the children in your community, come up with a children’s budget, and ensure that their rights are not violated. Every child should have access to clean water, sanitation, public space to recreate and a community free of violence and abuse,” explained De Vaughn.
After lunch, each committee gave a presentation on their strategies to carry on their action plan in their individual communities. There were presentations from all the districts and the majority of them coincided with the developments of education accessibility and public places, and health assistance to children in their respective communities. The emphasis to have more cultural activities, fight poverty and to motivate the community spirit was among all the presentations held by the different municipalities.
Before the meeting concluded, it was announced that starting in August of 2015, UNICEF will have a consultant visiting each of the municipalities involved in the child friendly campaign. The consultant will work along with the rapporteur to revise not only the action plan, but the strategic plans for the community. He will also consult with children in order to create a strategic plan that best suits the municipality.
A child friendly municipality is a community where children are free and able to express their opinion on the type of city they want to live in. It is a city that ensures that all children, regardless of their social, economic, or ethnic background, have equal rights and access to health, education, shelter, social protection and social care.
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