THE HAGUE–The 3 million euros the Dutch government made available between 2015 and 2017 for projects to strengthen children’s rights in Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba have yielded positive results.
There is much more awareness of children’s rights in schools and in the community, children in vulnerable positions are getting assistance and children’s participation is increasing. Dutch State Secretary of Home Affairs and Kingdom Relations Raymond Knops stated this in a letter he sent to the Dutch Parliament last week.
Aside from children’s rights in education and a special Task Force that deals with this important subject, there are also tangible aspects that contribute to children’s development, such as the pending installation of playground equipment in St. Eustatius and Saba.
The playgrounds in Saba needed maintenance and were destroyed during Hurricanes Irma and Maria. A part of the funds for children’s rights has been tied to the reconstruction funds and funds of the Dutch mental health service GGD and the Ministry of Public Health, explained Knops. Saba has ordered new playgrounds, so the children of the island will have a place to play within one year after the hurricanes.
Late 2017, the St. Eustatius government submitted a request for the financing of several activities that will improve children’s rights on the island. The GGD Haaglanden is involved. The focus of these activities will be on the participation of children in social and cultural events, the renovation of the youth/community centre and the purchase of playground equipment.
In April 2017, a policy coordinator children’s rights and tackling of domestic violence was appointed for St. Eustatius, partly covered by the Dutch funds for children’s rights. It took some time for children’s rights initiatives to get off the ground in St. Eustatius due to the situation in government, clarified the State Secretary.
The United Nations Children’s Fund UNICEF Netherlands has a fulltime representative on St. Eustatius to support the local government and organisations with capacity building know-how regarding the protection of children and children’s rights in general, to set up trainings and to assist with the execution of children’s rights-related activities.
Also, in St. Eustatius a few years ago the Safety Net Group was established in which representatives of the youth care sector participate to look out for the needs of Statia children. With the assistance of Safety Net Group and UNICEF Netherlands the International Day for the Rights of the Child was celebrated in September 2016 and 2017.
In Saba, a children’s rights and domestic violence project leader was appointed early 2016. In November 2016, Saba started with a children’s rights improvement programme, which includes a budget for acute issues that threaten the rights of the child.
“The Saba government used this budget successfully a number of times which enabled quick action, for example in a household that had insufficient beds, the water tank had run empty, but also to provide support in protecting children in cases of domestic violence,” stated Knops.
Twice the Week of the Rights of the Child was held in Saba, whereby the local government coordinated various activities of stakeholders about children’s rights. The local government, together with UNICEF Netherlands, also organised activities for the schools on International Day for the Rights of the Child.
The Dutch government funds were further used to improve the after-school care and the day care. The after-school care has space for ten children growing up in poverty or living in an unsafe situation at home. The after-school care and day care receive a package with fruits and vegetables twice a week.
Another part of the children’s rights programme on Saba focused on sports. The Ministry of Public Health made funds available for a community sports coach, who uses the funds for the improvement of children’s rights to stimulate sports among the youth. Swimming lessons are organised, and the coach assists with sports days at the schools.
“The funds have enabled the Saba government to better invest in the wellbeing of the island’s children and brought about developments that were needed to better secure children’s rights,” stated Knops.
In September 2016, UNICEF Netherlands started children’s rights education at schools and with professionals in St. Eustatius and Saba engaged in dialogues with religious leaders about the importance of upbringing without violence.
Children need to be able to develop into active citizens, whose opinion and input matters. Together with Missing Chapter Foundation, UNICEF Netherlands set up different Children’s Councils in the Caribbean Netherlands. Six Children’s Council trajectories were carried out in St. Eustatius and one in Saba.
The tackling of domestic violence is a vital part of the process to improve children’s rights on the islands. The local governments, with the assistance of the Dutch government, will focus on prevention and set up an easily-accessible hotline. The Ministry of Justice and Security will facilitate a pilot to improve the tackling of domestic violence where it relates to the law enforcement sector.
The Dutch government has made an additional 1 million euro available for children growing up in poverty in the Caribbean Netherlands. These funds are especially meant to aid in kind, so these children can participate in cultural activities or in sports, school or social activities.
Social organisations in Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba had until May 15 to submit their plans, for example by providing healthy food, swimming lessons or a music instrument for children whose parents cannot afford such.
The State Secretary concluded, based on the evaluation of the projects that were initiated to strengthen children’s rights, that the funds have contributed to this subject being placed high on the political agenda. “This impulse has resulted in the ministries taking their responsibility in the area of youth affairs in the Caribbean Netherlands.”
The island governments have, despite their limited financial means, initiated several good trajectories. And, thanks to the efforts of UNICEF Netherlands, more awareness was created for children’s rights in the local communities.
“A large part of the community was reached by engaging in round table talks with role models and religious leaders. This has contributed to more awareness of parents about children’s rights, not only the right to education, but also the right of healthy eating and the right of a positive upbringing without violence. Improving children’s rights starts at home,” stated Knops.
The State Secretary said it is imperative to preserve the efforts and to stay sharp on this subject, the further strengthening of the capacity to execute the tasks in youth affairs. A constructive cooperation has materialised with UNICEF Netherlands, not only in the form of children’s rights education and participation, but also in the form of the Task Force Children’s Rights.
The annual upbringing conference, organised by the Task Force with the participation of all six Dutch Caribbean islands, has proven a successful event where know-how is shared, and which has contributed to keep the subject high on the political agenda.
Knops confirmed he will keep supporting the Task Force Children’s Rights. He is looking at keeping UNICEF Netherlands engaged in the process of creating more awareness, increasing participation and strengthening the capacity.
Together with UNICEF’s regional office in Barbados, UNICEF Netherlands is working on a proposal to carry out a Situational Analysis in the Caribbean Netherlands. “Tackling the causes and consequences of poverty among children and improving children’s rights requires a long-term approach. I will see to it that the children in the Caribbean Netherlands get the attention that they deserve,” Knops concluded his letter to Dutch Parliament.