Young people’s participation is critical to the country’s effort to curb social ills as they are powerful agents of change.
Volda Lawrence, Minister of Social Protection, made this observation to
members of the Queen’s College student body trending under #BURNTHEPRICETAG, an initiative aimed at stopping Trafficking in Persons.
The students hosted their first public event yesterday in the form of a walkathon to generate greater awareness about Trafficking in Persons and how it could be prevented and addressed.
The walk which began at the school, proceeded along Camp, Lamaha and Albert Streets before ending in the National Park for a rally, where the Minister congratulated the youths for the initiative, the brainchild of Fifth former Gabrielle Bacchus.
“I am heartened by the response from young Guyanese to this call to come out and support the awareness drive aimed at stopping the crime of human trafficking. There is power in numbers and I believe that your presence here today sends a strong message for human vultures who prey on the innocence and vulnerability of persons seeking better economic opportunities.
“I can feel the excitement and positive energy emanating from you and I am sure that this will permeate every anti-human trafficking initiative we undertake from here on,” she said. She called on the students to take the messages to more schools.
“What better place to start than in school where we have direct access to the young population. Teachers, you have been influential in delivering the academic curriculum. We could use your help to ensure that students are empowered to deal with everyday issues as well.
“Students, you are extremely important to stopping human trafficking. Speak to your peers about the dangers and how they could say no. Look out for each other to deter recruiters. I sit on the Ministerial Task Force on Trafficking in Persons and I can tell you of the high level of commitment to prosecute persons charged with the offence of TIP; and the commitment to rehabilitate and reintegrate victims into society. The Ministry is also working with NGOs to provided better services and facilities. But what we hope most to achieve is prevention.”
The Minister noted that efforts are underway to boost her Ministry’s capacity to respond to TIP. “We will not condone exploitation and trafficking of persons. We are free beings who should not be coerced into sexual arrangements and exploited for the material gains of others. There is no price attached to humans. Let’s burn the price tag!”
She noted that there are finite resources to respond to the numerous needs of the population and therefore collaborations such as these are helpful “because we cannot do it alone and because we deeply value the impact young people could have on each other in addressing social issues.”
“We believe that you have a greater role to play in the solution of many problems and therefore wish that you would continue to broaden your physical and social networks so that we can impact more lives.”
Among the challenges, the Minister said, is removing the hinterland population from the periphery of national development. “As you are aware, it is there that TIP mostly occurs. We have to change this. We need to educate more of our people, especially your peers to be suspicious of employment offers that seem too good to be true.”
Bacchus said that the #BURNTHEPRICETAG movement started last October by herself, Sadiya Yahya, Rani Persaud, Theresa Gobin, Elmira Persaud, Aneesa Hussain and May Persram.
The group hopes to have it formalised this year to better reach schools and the business community in collaboration with the Social Protection Ministry.
“Human Trafficking is too big a scourge to have gone ignored for a long as it has. Human trafficking goes against everything that humanity has fought tooth and nail for over the years. Human trafficking takes people and place a price tag on their lives,” she emphasised.
School Principal, Ms. Jackie Benn, whom the students said is very supportive of their efforts, applauded the commitment and passion of the students, as well as their leadership role in advocating for greater awareness about preventing Trafficking in Person.
Citing figures produced by the United Nations, Benn said that a third of all victims globally are children and therefore this effort by students is very relevant.
“It is our intention not only to bring awareness but to encourage other stakeholders to partner with Queen’s College and the Ministry of Social Protection to help rid our society of this scourge.
“While we know the government has responsibility to enforce the law, share information and invest in judicial resources, we the citizens of Guyana have a civic responsibility to help stop this crime against humanity,” she said.
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