Hundreds of children march against child abuse

The Island Newspaper, Ambergris Caye, Belize            Vol. 18, No. 23            June 5, 2008

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Schoolchildren partook in the parade chanting "no more violence" "protect children" and more.

Children from all schools participated in the important peaceful march.

"No more abuse!" resonated through the streets, and no matter how young, children joined by their parents, became involved.

Over the past few weeks, Belize has been shocked with various news articles and pieces that speak loudly about child abuse. Two children, in two separate incidents, were severely beaten and subsequently died as a result of the injuries received. The increasing numbers of reported abuse cases against children prompted activists in San Pedro to March in solidarity. Their march spoke volumes and on behalf of the many children who have suffered and who are silently suffering the effects of the different forms of abuse. The peaceful march took place on Friday, May 30th, 2008 and had approximately 1,000 children and adults in participation.

    The demonstration, organized by Holy Cross Anglican School and called "March for Our Children," had school children, teachers, parents, activists and community members march through the principal streets of San Pedro Town in protest against abuse. In an interview with The San Pedro Sun, Glenda Rancheran, school nurse and councilor at Holy Cross Anglican School, commented that a child attending their school was sexually abused about two months ago. The abuse was reported but unfortunately the result was not a positive one. Because of this, they decided to organize the march, "It really struck me that nothing was done about it. We never knew that there was a problem with the child until it happened. The children are our future and we cannot allow them to be abused."

    One of the people that played an active role in organizing the march was a volunteer from the University of Mississippi, USA working at Holy Cross Anglican School, Doctor Kim Shackelford. Shackelford stated that most of the social problems that lead to continuous child abuse in San Pedro have to do with the lack of proper resources. "What we see lacking in the island is that we don't have a Social Worker or immediate social service. When we have all these types of situations on the island, where we have sexual and physical abuse, we don't have a place where these children can turn to for help."

    According to Shackelford, many of the social problems that are visible in our society are a direct result of child abuse. "We can not allow our children to be abused. If they are, you will find that they will turn to drugs and negative things on the streets. You will see more people in depression and later in the prison and it does not add to the positive of our society."

    Rancheran explained that while the march was a success, she hopes that those perpetrating the abuse got the message loud and clear. "I didn't realize that so many people would have turned out for the march. I think it's a strong message against abusers that the children are now getting up and speaking on the issues."

    The march started at the Central Park and went through the principal streets of San Pedro Town ending at the Central Park with a short rally. Plans are ongoing to build a counseling center at Holy Cross Anglican School that will be available for families in need of counseling.
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