– as Child Protection Week concludesMinister within the Communities Ministry Dawn Hastings-Williams and a team, including a Blossom Incorporated representative Tiffany Griffith, conducted an education outreach programme to several communities in Region Seven (Cuyuni-Mazaruni).The aim of the exercise was to raise awareness about child abuse and the strong role the community plays in intervention and prevention. This was part of activities in observance of Child Protection Week, September 18 to 24.Minister within the Communities Ministry Dawn Hastings-Williams addressing the meeting during the education outreachFor three days (September 21-23), the Minister and team held engagements with the children, parents, community leaders and Councillors of Kamarang, Jawalla, Kako and Kwebanna on child rights, preventing child abuse and better parenting. This was reinforced by a travelling exhibition titled “Break the Silence, Stop Child Sexual Abuse”, which the team shared with them, a release from the Government Information Agency (GINA) stated.Speaking at the different engagements, Minister Hastings-Williams sought to reinforce the importance of community involvement in ensuring the protection of the nation’s children.The Minister declared, “Child abuse is real.” Moreover, incidents of child abuse are on the increase throughout the 10 Administrative Regions, with the hinterland regions showing signs of being more vulnerable.The Minister noted that “all (parents, community leaders, businesses and the Police) must become involved” to stop this scourge and called on the community leaders, parents and residents to give prominence to the issue by making it a topic of discussion at every forum.The Minister urged that the community make it a decisive issue at the weekly village meetings and at the level of the different Parent-Teachers’ Association meetings. The Minister also asked that these meetings discuss topics such as how to recognise the signs and symptoms of abuse and what to do if it was suspected that a child or young person was being harmed.The Minister not only urged further education, but for the community to seek to report instances of suspected abuse. Meanwhile, Griffith reminded the children that they were all special, telling them: “You are going to be the leaders of tomorrow’s generation…”She explained that their parents, community and Government have a responsibility to them in relation to ensuring that they become their best self for their future role. Griffith pointed out that the responsibility also includes ensuring that they are “well taken care of” including protected from all forms of abuse.“Abuse is any form of punishment or wrongdoing that has been done to a child,” Griffith explained to the children. “If somebody beats you and leaves marks on your skin and causes you pain and you are not able to attend school that is abuse. If somebody should touch you on your private parts, that is abuse,” she added.The Blossom Incorporated representative urged the children to report all instances of abuse to “somebody who you think you can tell and who would not cause you more harm”.During the meetings, Minister Hastings-Williams also spoke briefly about Indigenous Heritage and Education Month, both of which are being observed in September.Alluding to the two observances, the Minister reiterated the Government’s commitment to indigenous development, including its pledge to work to bring quality education to the hinterland, on par with what is offered on the coastland.“The Government is committed in ensuring that every child has access to quality education despite their geographical location,” the Minister assured.She also resolved to bring to Cabinet’s attention a number of issues and concerns that were raised during engagements, including improving the living quarters of Government workers in the hinterland.The Child Care and Protection Agency (CCPA) stated that over 2238 cases of child abuse have been reported. According to CCPA Director Ann Greene, the most reported form of abuse is neglect, followed by sexual abuse.Blossom Incorporated is a registered Non-Governmental Organisation within Guyana, that works separately and in collaboration with the Social Protection Ministry to build and strengthen children and families’ relationships and to safeguard the physical and mental well-being of all children.