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Apr 30, 2002

UNICEF takes new initiatives for children

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It is an international organisation that has breathed much needed life into the nation’s efforts at improving the life of young people. Today, UNICEF briefed members of the press on its latest activities.

Jacqueline Woods, Reporting

The five-year programme is a continuation of the working co-operation that exists between the United Nations Children’s Fund, UNICEF, the Government of Belize and non-governmental organisations. The project is designed to strengthen the country’s capacity to look after the welfare of children and women especially in the areas of early childhood development, juvenile participation and HIV/AIDS.

Roy Bowen, Programme Officer, UNICEF

“When we held consultations with government and representatives from the NGO communities, these are the areas that came out to us that we needed at least to continue our co-operation. With regard to early childhood co-operation, there’s a huge need there. With regard to youth crime and violence, we see the situation, and we want to see how we can in partnership with NGOs and government, make a positive impact on the lives of children and young people.”

It’s an ambitious project and UNICEF admits that they will need the help of their partners in the media and community for it to be successful. But UNICEF’s Programme Officer, Roy Bowen, says he has been encouraged by the support given by all parties concerned, including the Government.

Roy Bowen

“The Government has been extremely helpful, the Ministry of Human Development in particular. The inter-ministerial committee that is chaired by the Minister of Human Development and also the government has contributed some funds to implementing the project.”

And as UNICEF gets ready to embark on its country programme, the international campaign, Say Yes For Children, has been completed. On May eighth, Belize will join other nations at a UN Special Session for Children in New York. At that meeting, both adults and children will be presenting a list of critical issues to Heads of State and world leaders in an effort to stop violence against children.

Marleni Cuellar, Member, Children Advisory Committee

“Well I am very excited to go. I’m looking forward to the children’s forum, which is basically just about… There will be over five hundred delegates from all over the world coming together and we’ll discuss the “World Fit for Children” document, we’ll talk about how we can be able to continue achieving the goals we have set and seeing how we can stimulate more participation within our own country. And that’s something I’m looking forward to in Belize.”

Seventeen year old Marleni Cuellar, a member of UNICEF’s Children Advisory Committee, will be a part of the Belize delegation attending the children’s forum leading up to the UN Special Session.

Last August, Cuellar visited schools to listen to other children speak out on issues they believe are affecting them. At the special meeting in New York, Cuellar will be presenting the three issues that are most important to Belizean children; leave no child out, fight HIV/AIDS and educate every child.

Marleni Cuellar

“Education has always been a major concern for everybody. In the children’s elections that was the number one vote that came out; it’s the third one for this pledge. Leave no child out, I feel, and the impression I got when I was canvassing about in the city, was that children want to participate. It’s a major right that we have but we’re not really expressing. And so leaving no child out kind of encompasses the fact that they want to have their opinions heard, they want to have that voice, they want to be able to say what they feel.”

One person who has worked hard to assist governments in the implementation of policies to improve the lives of children and women, is Belize’s new UNICEF representative, Nadya Vasquez.

Nadya Vasquez, UNICEF Country Rep. to Belize

“I bring to Belize my experience and my personal and professional commitment to defend the human right of children, adolescents and women.”

Vasquez, before coming to Belize worked with UNICEF as a national programme officer and co-ordinator of international co-operation. Jacqueline Woods reporting for News 5.

Belize’s delegation to the UN special general assembly will be led by Minister of Human Development Dolores Balderamos Garcia.

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