The month of November has always been a very special month in the lives of the children where as a country we have promoted the awareness of children’s rights for over three decades in collaboration with our counterparts of French St. Martin.
This year a unique occasion has been presented to us since the passing of Hurricane Irma to truly demonstrate our sincere commitment towards the wellbeing of our children.
The devastation of the Hurricane, I dare say challenged almost every article as presented in the International Children’s Rights Convention which has been ratified by 195 Countries including our beautiful island St. Maarten which forms part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands. While two countries are yet to ratify this convention, history has proven that it is the most widely ratified international human rights treaty therefore placing great emphasis of its importance.
As we observe today, November 20th, 2017 International Day of the Rights of the Child in a very solemn way, as the Minister with this huge responsibility of safeguarding children’s rights, I ask you to join me in the continued commitment of placing children at the center of this community.
More than ever should we be committed in advocating legislations and reporting codes in the quest of combatting “Child Abuse”.
More than ever should we ensure that the basic standards are met in order to ensure the safety of our children at all times.
More than ever should we ensure that our children have access to health care without discrimination.
More than ever should we ensure that children remain within the family, which is the primary institution as the main source of their protection as separation is the least desirable outcome.
More than ever should we ensure that all children continue to receive an education and that this basic right is uninterrupted for as much as possible.
I must humbly thank all who came out in the aftermath of the disaster and aided in heralding the message that “Education could not wait” and worked tirelessly to ensure our children were back in the school.
Day Care Centers, afterschool- and sports programs as part of our Safety Net structures were placed on our priority list thus ensuring their unrelenting service within our community. Our efforts continued with the collaboration of the local and International Red Cross sponsoring a 3 months’ meals program for approximately 5000 students within the primary schools. Joint programs with our counterpart government from the Northern side were also held for our children and youth in the area of sports during our annual St. Martin Day celebrations. A special highlight was our Youth Debate with a combined team of Youth Parliamentarians from both sides of the island who faced the team of the Hyacinth Richardson Debating Foundation. All programs and efforts reflecting our countries commitment in safeguarding children’s rights as it relates to the articles of the convention which focuses on education, safety, protection, nutrition and expression.
We may not have been able to celebrate with all our stakeholders this year as we have done in the past but let this be a time of true reflection of our responsibility as a Country to provide the basic needs as outlined in the Children’s Rights Convention.
Our consciousness that business can never be the same in this ever-changing world as it relates to the wellbeing of our children, must propel us to endeavor in realizing our Ministry’s vision by ensuring that our children and youth are given opportunities to thrive and reach their full potential to become active citizens with a shared responsibility”