Protection & Rights of Children
My Body is Precious
In 2013 Mrs. Simplis Barrow embarked on a public education campaign titled “My Body is Precious” that seeks to empower children and adolescents with information on sexual abuse and exploitation. She has co-author two books as a part of the campaign. The first was a child friendly book on sexual abuse prevention that targets 6 to 10 year olds. This book was launched in April, 2013 and resulted in a countrywide tour that included the dramatization of the book and a song.
The Office of the Special Envoy for Women and Children partnered with the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), to create animated cartoons of the My Body is Precious Book in English, Maya and Garifuna. The animations were launched in March 2015 with an aim to get the message of child abuse prevention to communities where the children and their families may not speak or fully understand English.
The second book targets adolescent girls and was distributed at a countrywide Girl Empowerment speaking tour that was launched in early 2014. The aim was to encourage young ladies to delay their sexual debut and not to give in to the pressures they may face at this critical point in their development. The book was a tool to educate teenaged girls about sexual abuse, and to provide information for those who have been or are still being victimized on seeking help and recovering from the trauma of these experiences.
In her years as Special Envoy, Mrs. Simplis Barrow has been very successful in putting the subject of the commercial sexual exploitation of children squarely in the domain of public discourse and action. In August 2010, she hosted a successful Symposium on Commercial Sexual Exploitation with a wide cross-section of stakeholders. The objective was to bring the issue to the fore and to sensitize children, parents, government, non-government organizations, church, media, schools, civil society and private sector officials to the existence and dangers of these violations of human rights.
A follow-up CSEC conference took place in October 2011, this time reaching out to the tourism industry to garner their support in tackling the demand side of CSEC. A PSA was also released at this conference, dissuading Belizeans from participating in this illegal activity and protecting the tourism industry.
Mrs. Simplis Barrow expanded her call to end sexual abuse and exploitation against children to include ALL forms of violence against. A National Stakeholder Conference to End Violence Against Children was held in November 2013 that resulted in a roadmap that will chart the way for a comprehensive, coordinated and multi-sectorial response to violence against Belizean children and adolescents.
In Our Own Words
Hear what Belizean children have to say about violence; their experiences and opinions... in their own words!
Mrs. Simplis Barrow successfully lobbied for the strengthening of legislations regarding Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children and trafficking in persons. In December 2013, the government introduced 2 new bills into the House of Representatives, which were then passed into law.
The first includes stiffer penalties for human trafficking and related offenses as well as the expansion and clearer articulation of the offenses that are punishable under the law. The second is an Act to prohibit and punish acts of commercial sexual exploitation of a child in Belize; and to give effect to and implement the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography; and to provide for matters connected therewith or incidental thereto. This Bill sets out provisions that deal with this phenomenon from all angles and offers protection for children and adolescents right up to the age of 18 years. The provisions are also consistent with regional and international standards.
Amendments to the Criminal Code were also passed to clearly define sexual offences, increase penalties for perpetrators of child sexual abuse and provide equal protection for boys and girls. Mrs. Simplis Barrow mobilized students to attend the House Meeting session when the amendments were passed. They were a representation of the many children who will benefit from the strengthening of the child protection system.
Having Fun with Rights
The Special Envoy for Women and Children with support from UNICEF Belize launched the publication, “Having Fun with Rights: A Children’s Rights Activity Book” on February 25, 2016.
The book targets children aged 8-11 years old and is designed to make the teaching of children’s rights more interactive and enjoyable. Activities based on situations that may occur within homes, at school or in social settings are used to make the material relatable while encouraging the children to think, rather than simply memorizing the information. The book also places significant focus on the responsibilities that accompany each of the rights to foster positive behavioural habits and promote child-appropriate responsibilities, particularly within households. Significant to the development of Having Fun with Rights, were workshops held with students of Hummingbird Elementary School and All Saints Primary School in May, 2015 to gather feedback on the content and appearance of the book.