Violations of children’s rights can lead to death

Dear Editor,
The story about the 16-year-old teen who was brutally stabbed to death by a 34-year-old was one of the most shocking stories in the past week.
While there are many questions that have arisen from the situation, the underlying issue of the protection of this young girl is another matter that connects to the story and the rest of Guyana at large, signalling a deficit in the policies made, the services offered, and the communities’ willingness and knowledge on reporting violence against children in our land.
A popular newspaper presented the harrowing tale of the stabbing to death of Sanesha Subrina Lall of Richmond Housing Scheme. Some alarming details uncovered about the story included the fact that the 16-year-old Sanesha refused to continue being in a relationship with her murderer because he was married. The newspaper was keen to mention the name of this teen girl, but omitted to name the alleged killer.
At some point, it may have occurred to a keen-eyed reader and member of the Richmond Housing Scheme, where Sanesha had lived, that the abuse of this young girl (and eventual death) by an adult man was one that highlighted serious violations of her protection rights from abuse as a child.
Another observation is that the teen’s parents had died, and she was clearly without adequate adult supervision and guidance. ChildLinK has, over the years, recognised and identified that children growing up without adequate parental care are most at risk of all forms of abuse. Sanesha’s right to life was cut short, and her right to an education was denied. We wonder when she stopped arriving at school; did someone notice? Were any enquiries made? When this alleged killer visited her or met with her, did her neighbours and/or community members notice? Did they know whom to call to stop this abuse, or did they think she was “hot” and looking for “it”? At 16 years old, did Sanesha know where to find help to escape from the abuse? Did she reach out to any service providers, and did she receive any response?
We spoke to a group of young children a week ago, to discuss how they learn about child rights and protection, and they said that most children don’t know where to find help. They said such information is not easily available, and that children don’t really know that they have a right to protection from abuse.
This Nov 20th, as we celebrate 31 years of the UNCRC, we must acknowledge that significant efforts are still needed to ensure that, across our country:
• All children have rights to protection from all forms of abuse
• All children know about their rights, and where to report abuse
• Adults know how and where to report child abuse
• Services’ providers and community members know that their roles are imperative in ensuring the protection of children in their communities.
The various agencies of the state, and those that originated in private bodies to deal with matters like this one, need to pay greater attention, and promote their mandates in such a way that the regular people on the street are motivated to be involved, although they are not formally employed there.
This would eventually create a general environment of safety and accountability that would trickle into the lives of any person having issues like this teen had faced (or even people that are near such people), and assist them with the knowledge that would help them to come to a place where speaking out on these issues are second nature. Guyana needs to do better; Guyana can do better!

Yours sincerely,
Khadidja Ba