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Sherry Johnson, Florida-based anti-child marriage campaigner who was forced to marry aged 11 in 1971.

‘It put an end to my childhood’: the hidden scandal of US child marriage

The Guardian

In half of US states, there is no legal minimum age for marriage; a 40-year-old man can, in theory, marry a five-year-old girl. But Florida may soon ban the practice for under-18s. We meet the former child brides campaigning for change

Sherry Johnson, Florida-based anti-child marriage campaigner who was forced to marry aged 11 in 1971.
Sherry Johnson, Florida-based anti-child marriage campaigner who was forced to marry aged 11 in 1971. Photograph: Katharina Bracher

Sherry Johnson was 11 when her mother told her she was going to get married. The bridegroom was nine years older and a deacon in the strict apostolic church that her family attended. He was also the man who had raped her and made her pregnant. “They forced me to marry him to cover up the scandal,” Johnson says. “Instead of putting the handcuffs on him and sending him to prison, they put the handcuffs on me and imprisoned me in a marriage.”

Johnson is now 58, but child marriage is not a thing of the past in the US: almost 250,000 children were married there between 2000 and 2010, some of them as young as 10. “Almost all were girls married to adult men,” says Fraidy Reiss, the director of campaigning organisation Unchained at Last.

In most US states, the minimum age for marriage is 18. However, in every state exceptions to this rule are possible, the most common being when parents approve and a judge gives their consent. In 25 states, there is no minimum marriage age when such an exception is made. But now Johnson’s home state, Florida, is poised to pass a law that sets the minimum marriage age at 18 with very few exceptions – thanks largely to her campaigning.

In 2013, Johnson was working at a barbecue stand in Tallahassee when she told her story to a senator who was one of her regular customers. “She listened to me and decided to do something,” Johnson recalls. “She presented a bill to restrict child marriage in 2014, but it failed. That was because nobody understood the problem at the time.

“People thought: this can’t happen in Florida. The minimum marriage age is 18; what’s the problem? But they didn’t know about the loopholes. Between 2001 and 2015, 16,000 children were married in Florida alone. A 40-year-old man can legally marry a five-year-old girl here.”

Sherry Johnson’s marriage certificate.
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Sherry Johnson’s marriage certificate. Photograph: Katharina Bracher

Johnson, whose own child-marriage took place in 1971, didn’t give up. She contacted numerous Floridian politicians, told them her story and explained the problem. “It was part of my healing process to tell my story,” she says. Actually, she adds, “I don’t like to use the word story because it ain’t a story. It’s the truth – I lived it.”

Apart from Florida, there are five states in the process of passing laws to end child marriage. It has been a tough battle, says Reiss, whose organisation has been campaigning for laws to be changed all over the country for three years.

“When I began, I thought it would be easy. I thought we would just explain the problem and legislators would jump up and change the law immediately. After all, the US state department considers child marriage a human rights abuse. But everywhere there are politicians who think it’s a bad idea to change the law. You wouldn’t believe how many legislators have told me that if a girl gets pregnant, she’s got to get married. One female Democrat politician asked me: ‘Won’t you increase abortion rates if you end child marriage?’ That left me speechless.”

Last year, 17-year-old Girl Scout Cassandra Levesque campaigned to change the New Hampshire law that allows girls as young as 13 to get married if their parents approve. “My local representative introduced a bill that raised the minimum age to 18. But a couple of male representatives persuaded the others to kill the bill and to prevent it from being discussed again for some years,” she says. “One of them said that a 17-year-old Girl Scout couldn’t have a say in these matters.”

“So they think she’s old enough for marriage, but not old enough to talk about it, says Reiss. “I think that reasoning is terrifying.”

She goes on to outline the harmful effects of child marriage. “Girls who get married before 18 have a significantly higher risk of heart attacks, cancer, diabetes and strokes and a higher risk of psychiatric disorders. They are 50% more likely to drop out of high school and run a higher risk of living in poverty. They are also three times more likely to become victims of domestic violence. Really, child marriage helps no one. The only people who benefit are paedophiles.”

Reiss, who was born in an ultra-orthodox Jewish community, and was herself coerced into marrying when she was 19, says it is “extremely ironic” that laws make exceptions when parents consent to a child marriage or when an underage girl is pregnant. “Because, in many cases, the pregnancy is the result of sexual abuse and the parents are forcing the girl to marry to prevent a scandal. So the law doesn’t protect the child at all. When an adult man has sex with an underage girl, this is considered statutory rape in many states. But when the perpetrator marries his victim, he can legally go on abusing her.”

Fraidy Reiss, director of campaigning organisation Unchained At Last.
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Fraidy Reiss, director of campaigning organisation Unchained At Last. Photograph: Susan Landmann

Many child brides come from religious backgrounds and less privileged groups – but not all. Donna Pollard, 34, grew up in a white, middle-class, non-religious family in a town called London in Kentucky, and yet she was married when she was 16. The man was nearly 15 years older. “I met him when I was 14 and going through a difficult time. My father had recently deceased,” she recounts. “He was my mental health counsellor and he acted like I could trust him. He convinced me that we were in love and he said: ‘If we get married when you turn 16, you will have all this freedom and your mum won’t be able to control you any more.’ So I thought I was taking charge of my life by agreeing to this.”

Her mother had no problems with her daughter getting married at 16 and readily gave her permission. “She was glad to get rid of me.”

Pollard remembers feeling very uncomfortable during the marriage ceremony. “The clerk didn’t even look up at me from her computer. She only asked: ‘Which one’s the minor?’ She didn’t assess if I was safe or needed something. He was 30 years old at the time, but nobody questioned the fact that he was so much older. That void of emotion hit me like a freight train. I knew something wasn’t right, but I didn’t feel empowered to speak up and say: ‘I don’t know that I really want to go through with this.’ Nor did I trust my own judgment. I was a troubled teenager.”

Once married, she left school and started working at a grocery store for a minimum wage, soon becoming the breadwinner because her husband stopped working. “He became physically abusive. He was controlling everything I did. In many ways, child marriage and human trafficking are interchangeable terms.”

Pollard left her husband when she was 19 after he tried to choke her in the presence of their baby daughter. “I realised she would grow up normalising violence if I didn’t leave. That’s what gave me the courage.” Looking back, she says that marrying young disrupted her personal development. “I was very good at school. I even received a substantial scholarship for writing achievement. I could have studied creative writing with a grant.”

Johnson says that “marriage put a definite end to my childhood. I was expelled from school and by the age of 17 I had six children. There was no way I could escape. You are not allowed to sign legal documents when you are under 18, so I couldn’t file for a divorce. For seven years, I was stuck with the man who damaged me and continued to do so.

“Child marriage delayed my life. I was never able to attain an education. I am still struggling, trying to survive. Working three jobs as a healthcare provider to make ends meet. And then there’s the pain, the trauma that you have to deal with.”

“We see the number of child marriages going down now, but it’s not going fast enough,” says Reiss. “It’s so difficult to help child brides escape. Our organisation risks being charged with kidnapping because they are under 18. This has already happened to us once. Also, there are very few shelters in the US that accept girls younger than 18. So when girls call us, we have to tell them the help we can provide is very limited. Most of the children who reach out to us for help have tried to kill themselves because they would rather be dead than forced into a marriage. That keeps me awake at night. Something has to change.”

On 31 January, Johnson sat in the public gallery while the Florida senate unanimously passed the bill that will end child marriage in the state (although the bill was subsequently amended to allow pregnant 16- and 17-year-old girls to marry). Several senators talked about her story and thanked her for pushing for the bill. Afterwards, she said that the senate vote helped to heal the pain. “I smile from within to know that children will not have to face what I have been through.”

For more information or counselling on any of the issues raised in this article go to unchainedatlast.org

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Guyana President declares national day of mourning

Guyana President declares national day of mourning

GEORGETOWN, Guyana, Jun. 24, CMC –  President David Granger has proclaimed Monday as a national day of mourning for the victims of the massacre of Guyanese fishermen off the Coast of Suriname between April 27 and May 3.

The proclamation which is in keeping with Article 99 (1) of the constitution of Guyana, calls on “all authorities, Boards, Commissions, Corporations, Public Agencies, Ministries and citizens to fly the National Flag of Guyana at half-staff to demonstrate solidarity with the families of those killed in these grisly and gruesome acts and to accord due homage, respect and reverence to the memory of the victims.”

The piracy attack which took place on April 27, left 16 fishermen missing and feared dead.

According to survivors, they were assaulted with machetes and forced to jump into the sea by the assailants who are suspected to be of Guyanese heritage.

Some of the survivors also recounted that several victims had batteries tied to their legs.

Granger, speaking on the sidelines of the opening ceremony for Caribbean Financial Action Task Force’s (CFATF) workshop for judges and prosecutors had described the attack, as a grave one.

“We are deeply grieved by the tragedy. Clearly, some Guyanese have been victims and we are in touch with the Surinamese government, also the Surinamese police authorities. Our police in the East Berbice, Corentyne division are in touch with their families and we plan to observe formal mourning. It is a great massacre, a great tragedy,” the president said.

In addition, The Head of State had extended sympathy to the bereaved families and said the recent attack is a setback to successes achieved in the fight against piracy over the past three years.

Following the attack, Minister of Public Security, Khemraj Ramjattan and a team of security personnel visited the neighbouring country and met with relatives of the deceased. The Minister said the visit was timely and yielded important information.

“The very first morning of our arrival I met with about 25 relatives of the victims and we had a meeting at the Guyana Embassy in Paramaribo, myself along with Ambassador George. A number of issues were raised and the ways in which we could assist were also discussed.” Minister Ramjattan added, “we then had a meeting on Monday morning with the Minister of Justice, Minister of Defence, Minister of Agriculture, the Police Commissioner and the chief detective who was the person in charge of the investigations. From that meeting, we received a better understanding as to how far the investigations had gone,” Ramjattan explained.

According to The Minister of Public Security a formal request was made to the Surinamese government, to have an estimated seven persons who may have information on the recent piracy attacks on Guyanese fishermen, provide same to the local police.

“Recently, a team of Surinamese detectives working on the case indicated that they are going to help us in relation to getting more evidence because we had asked them for more evidence in relation to people who we suspected in Guyana,” the Minister said during a media briefing.

In the aftermath of the attack,  the government declared moves to heighten counter-piracy efforts.

Minister of State, Joseph Harmon said that government will be intensifying its counter-piracy activities in Guyana and has assured local fisherfolk of the government’s commitment to ensuring that they continue to ply their trade and earn their livelihood in an environment of safety and security.

The Surinamese authorities have also agreed to the implementation of a number of regulatory measures aimed at ensuring the safety of fisher folks and their vessels.

Nakool Manohar called “Fyah”, 39, the alleged mastermind of the massacre of Guyanese fishermen in Suriname, was on charged on May 30, with the murder of one of the men.

Manohar appeared at the Springlands Magistrate’s Court b  to answer to charges of piracy on the high seas however, he was instead slapped with the murder charge.

The charge stated that between April 26th and May 3rd, while in Guyana’s territorial waters, he murdered Tilacknauth Mohabir called ‘Caiman’.

Another man  – Premnauth Persaud, also known as ‘Sinbad,’ who is said to be the ringleader of the April 27 piracy attack off of Suriname, was jointly charged  with the murder of two fishermen.

Persaud, 43, the third accused, was jointly charged with Nakool Manohar, also known as “Fyah”, 39, with the murders of Tilaknauth Mohabir, also known as “Kai” or “Kaiman,” and Mahesh Sarjoo. The charge read that the two men, between April 27 and May 3, murdered Mohabir and Sarjoo during the course of a robbery in Corentyne waters.

The second accused Alexander DenHart, called “Shame Face”, earlier this month and was not required to answer to the charge.

The bodies of Tilacknauth Mohabir and Mahesh Sarjoo were the only two that were positively identified by relatives in Suriname after the   attack .

One other body that was found in Surinamese waters is still to be identified via DNA testing while the body of Gowkaran Outar called Gavin was found on a beach and was positively identified by a tattoo on his chest by relatives.

Five persons survived the ordeal while 11 are still missing and feared dead.

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About 12.30 p.m. - June 25, 1997

How do we remember those who died on June 25, 1997?

by Bennette Roach

About 12.30 p.m. – June 25, 1997

This morning I asked a few peolple, who immediately but only then recalled the significance of my question: Who remembered where they were at about 12.30 p.m. on June 25, 1997. The stories came out, from very clear memories. What about you.

Last year on Sunday, June 25, 2017, Montserrat held a 20thYear Remembrance ceremony of the 19 persons who died during the tragic event of volcanic activity on June 25, 1997. A plaque displaying the names of the victims. A plaque was unveiled at the main service at the Cultural Centre and installed at the National Museum immediately after.

There were two memorial services held last week: one on Sunday afternoon and another on Tuesday afternoon, the day which was set aside as a national day of mourning.

Offices were officially asked to close at two o’clock on Tuesday, in honour of those persons who lost their lives or are still missing, though believed to be dead, in the tragic pyroclastic flows of Wednesday, June 25, 1997. The flows descended on villages from Streatham, Windy Hill, Harris, Farms Bethel, Spanish Pointe through Trants on the northeast and eastern end of the island, completely destroying some of them.

Both services were well attended by government dignitaries and officials, as well as family members of the dead and missing and the public in general.

Plans are being put in place to establish a fund for families of the victims of last week’s pyroclastic flow. This was put in motion with the offering that was taken up at the services.

Related: Memorial Services and Fundwww.montserratreporter.org – July 16, 1997

I previously wrote the following, information over which the discussions still continue as people are reminded.

“So people died, and later even to this day there are the reasons why it happened. But while HMG did not quite accept the verdict following the Inquiry which was presided over by Magistrate Rhys Burris, local government is yet to pursue some form of compensation for the survivors of these people. The deceased were where they were that day for varying reasons.

“Following the Inquest hearing: While the jurors found all 19 deaths were “caused by the natural catastrophe,” they pointed the finger of responsibility at both Her Majesty’s Government and the Government of Montserrat in at least some of them (the deaths).

“In London, the Foreign Office promptly disclaimed any responsibility of Her Majesty’s Government in the deaths. In a statement reported by the BBC, it said, “On May 23, the farmers were told to stop farming in the area nearest the volcano. It is inconceivable that they were not aware of the dangers.”

Today, let us remember these people. “Their deaths brought urgent attention which again to this day as we recall 20 years since the crisis began, the question must be how strong the indication of the casual way the Montserrat recovery has progressed, or retrogressed.

  • Alwin Allen, 44, a livestock farmer, died in Farms.
  • Winston Allen, 41, chauffeur and livestock farmer, died in Farms.
  • Benjamin / Joseph Brown, 71, a farmer, died in the central area of Montserrat.
  • Felina Celestine, 45, a farmer, died in Farrells.
  • Melville Cuffy, 39, a farm worker, died in Farrells.
  • Beryl Grant, 73, farmer and huckster, died in Harris.
  • Edith Greenaway, 69, resident, died at her home in Streathams.
  • Joseph Greenaway, 62, resident, died at his home in Windy Hill.
  • Mary Bernardine Harris, 44, resident, died at her home in Farms.
  • Alicia Joseph, 23, resident, died at her home in Farms.
  • Allister Joseph, 3-months, died with his mother in Farms.
  • Isolyn Lewis, 43, a farmer, died in Farrells.
  • Chana Rueben Boatswaine/Horrance Murraine, 66, airport worker, died in Farms.
  • Keithley Ponde, 32, a farmer, died in Farrells.
  • Hezekiah Riley, age unknown, described as mentally unstable, died at his home in Streathams.
  • Phillip Robinson, 66, a farmer, died in Streathams.
  • Anthony Sutton, 72, resident, died at his home in Farms.
  • Virginia Sutton, 70, resident, died at her home in Farms.
  • Joseph / Simon Tuitt / White, 45, airport worker, died in Farms.

“Above are the names of those who perished in that tragic and fateful volcanic extra-ordinary event of June 25, 1997. Theirs were lives lost that need not to have happened when and how they did. As we remember them and the day, we need also to remember the many others who have since died slowly, while not directly from an event, but from other events over the entire crisis. There are others who suffered and others who continue to suffer and some who have indeed died, only because circumstances were slow in being corrected or attended to at all.

“This was said almost 17 years ago. “Others may die slower deaths, but it is up to us who must do something about it, if it is only by breaking a silence and deliberating and strategizing ways to deal with these problems.”

“This remains valid today.”

 

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UNICEF and Education Ministry to launch campaign on discipline

UNICEF and Education Ministry to launch campaign on discipline

GEORGETOWN, Guyana, Jun. 22, CMC –  The United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF) will be collaborating with the Ministry of Education to launch a campaign on positive discipline.

UNICEF’s country representative, Sylvie Fouet says the evidence-based campaign stems from a conversation the organisation has been having with stakeholders for some time .

“That consultation took place about a year ago and we also involved children themselves. It was important because the way of teaching has to change,” Fouet told the media, explaining that part of the campaign will also help the ministry in its review of its teaching scheme” Fouet told reporters on Thursday.

Monitoring and Evaluation Specialist, Michael Gillis and UNICEF country representative, Sylvie Fouet

Monitoring and Evaluation Specialist Michael Gillis said the organisation started the collection of data in 2014.

That data gave an indication of the kind of discipline being practised. A situation analysis was also done on women on children which indicated what was happening and why it was happening. It was found too that there were key issues in hinterland communities.

“We then followed the lead of the data and then collected the information about indigenous women and children. There is a whole lot of evidence which moved beyond what is happening in school, what is being practised in society.  The positive discipline campaign was really evidence-informed,” he said.

The analysis found that corporal punishment was being practised at a very high level with over 70 per cent of parents administering some form of corporal punishment for different reasons.

“The positive discipline campaign will bring additional tools and ways of disciplining,” he said.

Communication Specialist, Frank Robinson relayed some recommendations that could be adhered to by parents to aid in their discipline technique.

He said, instead of hitting the child, parents can explain why the behaviour is not in keeping with what the parent would like.

“Give the child the chance to understand the severity of the action or behaviour by sitting and talking with the child,” he recommended.

At the same time, he said children need to understand that while they have rights, they also have responsibilities.

“So, it more of an empowerment type methodology in terms of disciplining children and so xfar, what we have seen with parents and schools that practice positive disciplining, we have seen positive changes,” Robinsons said.

UNICEF has already produced a video showcasing the perspective of children on the subject.

A second video is currently being produced that will give the perspective and views of the parents on positive discipline.

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New policy aims to get teenage mothers back in school

New policy aims to get teenage mothers back in school

GEORGETOWN, Guyana, Jun. 19, CMC – The Ministry of Education has implemented a  new policy  to ensure that  teenage mothers have the opportunity to go back to school while receiving support at home and from their community.

The policy manual was handed over on Monday  by officials from the Ministry and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF).

The policy which is a collaboration between the Ministry of Education and UNICEF, also had the input of other stakeholders, including the Ministry of Public Security and faith-based organisations.

Sandra Granger

Addressing the handing over ceremony at the National Center for Educational Resource Development (NCERD) , First Lady, Sandra Granger, called on the policy-makers and educators to uphold and protect the rights of children and adolescent mothers who have suffered sexual abuse.

“We have to speak of these things and see it as violence against our children. We also have to… ensure that their rights are recognised and upheld; that our legal and our social protection agencies protect these children with the full majesty of the law… the children come first and it is their future that we have to ensure… That is enshrined in our Constitution.”

According to Minister of Education, Nicolette Henry, teenage pregnancy is a complex issue which results from a number of factors. These can be poverty, gender inequality, violence, lack of education and difficult relationships with parents and family members. She said this must not prevent them from acquiring education.

“As the government, our motto is that every child matters. With this policy there will be no need to repeat the past because the future for adolescent mothers in Guyana will become bright because legally the barriers that prevail will be a thing of the past and indeed illegal. Leaving the path open to an education for all,” Minister Henry told officials present.

UNICEF representative to Guyana and Suriname, Sylvie Fouet said Guyana ranks the second highest in teenage pregnancy in Latin America and the Caribbean. She said the creation of the policy is a key milestone and the next step is implementation. She signalled that opening the doors is not sufficient, and communities and stakeholders need to understand and be supportive and knowledgeable of reproductive health in Guyana.

“They need to know that they are protected and they are cared for so all the supportive mechanisms like education, health and justice has to support that and we hope so and we wish the best for Guyanese particularly the youngest,” Fouet said.

The policy has been in the works for approximately one year and sets out clear guidelines to ensure that mothers are not denied the opportunity to re-enter the formal school system, to continue their education.

It aims at not only managing the reintegration of the adolescent mothers but it is to also advance the prevention of adolescent pregnancy.

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Caribbean American Congresswoman outraged over separation of children from parents at US border

Caribbean American Congresswoman outraged over separation of children from parents at US border

By Nelson A. King

NEW YORK, Jun. 18,   CMC – Caribbean American Congresswoman Yvette D. Clarke has joined intensified outrage in the United States over the Trump administration’s decision to separate migrant children from their parents at the US border. 

“There is no act lower than ripping innocent children from the arms of their mothers,” said Clarke, the daughter of Jamaican immigrants, in an  interview with the Caribbean Media Corporation (CMC), on Sunday.

Yvette D. Clarke

“We have hit an all-time low as a people and a country,” added the representative for the 9th Congressional District in Brooklyn. “It is one of the most inhumane, cruel acts that could ever be taken by the Trump administration.

“As a second generation American, the daughter of Jamaican immigrant parents,  I take these assaults on immigrant communities personally,” Clarke continued, stating that she has been “a staunch advocate for immigration rights, from fighting for a clean Dream Act, aggressively advocating to keep families together to keeping vulnerable children with their parents, and fighting the Trump administration on their revocation of DACA [Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals] and attacks on Diversity Visas.”

In addressing what she described as “the racist, xenophobia of the Trump Administration,” Clarke said she has also advocated for the ASPIRE Act, a bipartisan bill to provide individuals who have received Temporary Protective Status (TPS), legal permanent residency.

“This administration has no bounds, even children don’t seem to matter,” the congresswoman said. “Therefore, I vow to continue to fight ferociously, along with my colleagues, against these grave injustices; and, we don’t plan to stop until justice prevails.”

Amid the profound outrage, US President Donald J. Trump on Saturday reiterated what political analysts and observers say is his erroneous claim that Democrats were responsible for his administration’s policy of separating migrant families arrested at the US border.

“Democrats can fix their forced family breakup at the Border by working with Republicans on new legislation, for a change!” said Trump in a twitter post on the weekend.

On Friday, the Trump administration announced that close to 2,000 children were separated from their migrant parents in a six-week period, concluding in May, as part of its “zero tolerance” policy on immigration.

In expressing outrage over the Trump administration’s new policy, Democrats have said that the separation of children from their parents at the US border is just of the incumbent administration’s making – that they had not enacted any law or rule in that regard.

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Contestants at Ethel Fashion Show April 12

Eight Caribbean beauties in NY beauty pageant

 

 

 

According to Yvonne Peters, the Vincentian-born president and founder of the Brooklyn-based organizing group, Caribbean American Cultural Group, Inc., the contestants hail from Belize, Guyana, Jamaica, Haiti, and St. Vincent and the Grenadines.

The contestants are: Reality Dopwell (Miss Belize); Breana Maxwell (Miss Jamaica); Shanah Forbes (Miss Jamaica); Jamela (Miss Guyana); Maya Grant (Miss Kingstown, St. Vincent); Kaiia Krysta Phillips (Miss Greggs, St. Vincent); Makeda Peters (Miss St Vincent & the Grenadines); and Kimberly Thomas (Miss Haiti).

Peters said the contestants will be judged on swim wear, talent, evening wear and interview.

She said the contestants’ platforms include awareness of sexual assaults on college campuses and Title IX; awareness of rape culture among high school youths; depression and suicide; combating poverty; and building self-esteem in children and youths.

Contestants at Ethel Fashion Show April 12

“Over a period of approximately four months, these young ladies are transformed into pageant contestants through various workshops, such as building a foundation for success, modeling, swimwear show case, talent show case, interviews, communication training, pageantry and dance rehearsals,” she said.

Peters said she founded the pageant in 2010 because she “always wanted to help the young people, in particular young women, in my community and give them a sense of purpose, community involvement and empowerment.

“So, the idea of a cultural pageant materialized; and, years later, we are still going strong, empowering young women to be confident in themselves and become leaders in their communities,” she said. Peters said the venue has a capacity of 1,200.

“So, we looking forward to a well-attended event for family-fun evening,” the pageant coordinator said. “We invite everyone to come out and support this community-building event, support the young people of our community and have some fun.”

Doors open at 5:00 p.m.; showtime: 6:00 p.m. sharp.

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Campaign to combat childhood obesity launched

Campaign to combat childhood obesity launched

BRIDGETOWN, Barbados, Jun 15, CMC – Barbados has launched a campaign aimed at addressing childhood obesity and the government has said it is examining the feasibility of restricting foods high in salt, fat and sugar from the school environment and from being marketed to children.

Health and Wellness Minister, retired Lieutenant Colonel Jeffrey Bostic, speaking at the launch of the Childhood Obesity Prevention Campaign, cited a report by researchers at the University of the West Indies (UWI) showing that in 1987, only 8.5 per cent of Barbadian school children were obese.

However, by 2010, the percentage rose to 32.5 per cent and it is now projected that the figure could increase to 50 per cent by 2030.

“Childhood obesity is harming Barbados through its impacts on the health and social fabric of the country. Not only is the burden of obesity in children large but it is projected to continue growing unless we take decisive action,” Bostic said.

He said that the impacts of childhood obesity on health encompassed issues such as increased risk of adult obesity and increased risk of non-communicable diseases, depression and anxiety.

The campaign, an initiative of the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Barbados, and dubbed “Stop! Yuh TOO Sweet,” will initially focus solely on the support of policy change to ban the sale of sugary sweets in schools.

Bostic gave the assurance that the government was committed to addressing the issue in several ways including working in partnership with a variety of agencies.

Other initiatives include promoting breastfeeding as an integral part of early child nutrition; supporting the monitoring of growth and development in early childhood; and encouraging regular physical activity in school-aged children.

He said that the Ministry would be engaging the food industry on reducing the production, manufacture, distribution and marketing of energy-dense and high-salt foods.

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Marcia Gilbert-Roberts (left) and Eric Khant sig ning MOU (JIS Photo)

Jamaica signs MOU with United States to combat child trafficking

KINGSTON, Jamaica, Jun 1, CMC – The United States is providing US$4.5 million in funding for projects and other activities over the next four years under an agreement with signed with Jamaica  for a Child Protection Compact (CPC) Partnership, which is aimed at combating the trafficking of children here.

Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, Marcia Gilbert-Roberts, who signed the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with Chargé d’Affaires at the United States Embassy here, Eric Khant, said that the objective of the partnership is to save Jamaican children and at-risk youth from being trafficked.

Marcia Gilbert-Roberts (left) and Eric Khant sig ning MOU (JIS Photo)

“One of the most valuable assets for the future of any country is its young people – our children. We are pleased, therefore, that Jamaica was invited by the Government of the United States to participate in this project,” she told the signing ceremony on Thursday.

She said that the MoU signing represents another milestone in the relationship between the two countries, noting that ‘without partnerships of this kind, our journey towards achieving our targets under the sustainable development goals and Vision 2030 would certainly be more extensive and arduous”.

Khant said Washington is pleased to be partnering with Jamaica on this initiative, and stressed that human trafficking is a very serious offence which must be eliminated.

“Approximately 2.5 million people are victims of human trafficking every year and many of those victims are children. This type of modern-day slavery should not exist in our society…because of that, we work closely with our international partners to fight this heinous crime, and we’re delighted that we can now partner with Jamaica under this Child Protection Compact Partnership.”

He said the four-year agreement will help to strengthen Jamaica’s ability to prosecute and punish traffickers, identify and provide comprehensive services to victims and prevent these crimes from happening.

“Our hope is that together, we will be able to eliminate child trafficking altogether in Jamaica and the wider region,” he added.

Jamaica is the fourth country to have been selected for a CPC Partnership and the first country from the Caribbean region. The others are Ghana, Peru and the Philippines.

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Rescue teams at scene of accident (Photo courtesy Tribune Newspaper)

Four killed, several others injured, as truck slams into Labour Day parade

NASSAU, Bahamas, Jun 1, CMC – At least four people were killed and 24 others injured after a truck slammed into people celebrating Labour Day activities here on Friday, police said.

Eyewitnesses said the unoccupied truck rolled down the street, hitting several people as it picked up speed. It later crashed into another vehicle, pinning an individual between the two vehicles.

Rescue teams at scene of accident (Photo courtesy Tribune Newspaper)

Video pictures of the accident show people screaming for someone to move the truck.

Police said two women died on the scene and two others died in hospital.

Assistant Commissioner of Police Kendal Strachan said the vehicle rolled on after the driver, who is assisting in the investigations came out of the vehicle.

“ … it went forward colliding first with a child along the side of the street, then descending the hill, continuing north running into several persons who were participating in the Labour Day parade along the eastern side of East Street, coming to rest against a Nissan Micra and the building just at that intersection,” he said.

Labour Minister Dion Foulkes told a news conference that “this is a difficult thing.

“A parade of that nature is normally stop and go at not more than five mph (for vehicles). Constantly on these parades you would find police officers asking persons who are on the vehicles to be properly seated within the vehicles. Yes there are large trucks on the parade where persons are standing but we don’t want to see persons hanging off the side of the vehicle,” he added.

He said the incident sent shockwaves throughout the country but also showcased quick and effective work from health professionals who worked to prevent a rise in the death toll.

“Today is an extremely sad day for the Commonwealth of the Bahamas,” said Health Minister Dr Duane Sands.

“Having endured such a tragic incident, the one thing I can say is from the time of the incident doctors, nurses responded even in their grief to care for the victims. The EMS staff, nursing staff, physicians at PMH made their country proud today and they provided care with a level of professionalism.”

The parade was cancelled following the incident.

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