Old Harbour Bay Outreach Programme

This project began operation in September, 2010 at the agency’ Peter’s Lane location and will run for approximately 8 months. It targets 60 youths, especially youths, from the age group 10-24 years. The aim of the project is the prevention of youngsters 10-15 years from entering into child labour and sexual exploitation through the provision of educational and other training opportunities. For the 16 – 20 age group, emphasis will be placed on withdrawal of and prevention of participants who are engaged in or are most vulnerable to being sexually exploited, involved in hazardous forms of employment by providing them with educational and vocational training opportunities. The skills training area that are been offered are Cosmetology and Barbering. In addition, the participants will be engaged in gender sensitive and culturally appropriate workshop/awareness sessions, with emphasis on reproductive health.

Parents, caregivers and the wider community will be part of the programme. The adults will primarily be engaged in the prevention aspect of the programme and as such special awareness raising sessions will be conducted on issues relating to the Child Care and Protection Act, HIV/AIDS and Sexually Transmitted Infections, issues of Sexual Exploitation and Trafficking In Persons as well Child Abuse and Child Rights Education. Additionally, the wider community will be involved in the specially organized. Community sensitization (Bashment events) sessions where they too will have access to gender sensitive/culturally appropriate information, VCT testing as well as other health services. The community Bashment activities will be in partnership with Children Fist, UNICEF and MOH/Global Fund sponsored Mobile Reproductive Health and Information Service – the Bashy Bus Project.

Bashy Bus Baseline Assessment Executive Summary

HIV/AIDS is a global concern and in Jamaica the number of cases of AIDS has been steadily increasingly, particularly in the parishes of St. Catherine, St. Ann and St. James, where there are high rates of internal migration and population movement as a result of urbanisation and tourism. Almost 10 percent of all reported AIDS cases are among persons under 19 years of age and adolescent gilrs are two to three times more likely to become infected with HIV than adolescent boys in Jamaica. Reports of risky sexual behaviour among adolescents, including sex between school girls and taxi drivers/bus workers and of young people engaging in sexual intercourse in public passenger vehicles (buses), mark a worrying trend in adolescent sexual and reproductive health (ASRH).

The Adolescents of Urban St. Catherine

A Glimpse of the Findings

This report is based on research carried out in almost all of the inner city communities of St. Catherine, and some of the larger secondary and primary schools, using a 24-page instrument constructed within an integrated methodological frame to gather and triangulate data on adolescent reproductive health and survivability, as well as a review of literature. After seven (7) months of research the team is convinced that

  1. The youth of poor urban communities are experiencing crises far beyond levels previously discussed by both government officials and academics.
  2. Immediate steps need to be taken to address the plight of the adolescents of the inner cities studied and by extension those of urban Jamaica.
  3. The crises found are not peculiar to Spanish Town and South St. Catherine as they mirror observations in other areas of Greater Kingston.

Here at the very beginning, we wish to share with readers some of the most painful memories of the study in order to underline the extent and depth of the crises being experienced by the youth. We hope that this study will help to lay the groundwork for the urgent interventions that are needed to make life better for young people in this country, or at least in the parish of St. Catherine, the home of Children First Agency. We highlight only a few of the many situations that brought tears to the eyes of the researchers. In some instances interviewers needed the emotional support of team members to continue the interaction.

  • A 13-year-old boy raped by a tourist, is taken off the streets by a woman but not sent to school. Rather he is used for the sexual pleasures of herself and her bisexual female friend.
  • A 14-year-old, laughing so as not to cry, relates how he was ‘raped’ by a girl on the command of the Don, and how he fainted as he thought he was being raped by a male but woke up to realise that it was a female who was the participant.
  • A 16-year-old girl jumping from a tree to effect an abortion after she was raped, and in the same community the story of a girl being raped and thrown from a roof to her death.
  • An 11-year-old boy who has already participated in killing someone and whose view towards political enemies is that “Dem fi dead.”
  • Entering a community and finding 45 Out-of-school adolescents in 3 days.
  • Interviewing a boy who along with his friends is armed with illegally got firearms; listen to them have an open verbal competition as to who had the most powerful gun from the Don, and then being invited into the debate as a researcher to respond to “Which one of dem gun yah woulda frighten yu more?”
  • Standing up in a community and having a little boy identify for you 5 boys who were shot in the leg by the Don for disobedience, then with tears in his eyes asking you to take him home with you.
  • Finding several boys below age 18 living on their own.
  • Finding 12, 13, and 14 year old boys driving trucks and serving as assistant mechanics and helping hands in illegal sand-mining businesses.
  • A home of 5 with no one employed except a 16-year-old dropout male.
  • A number of children who have one or no proper meal for a full day, but attend school and pass their examinations.
  • Boys and girls beaten by parents to the point that limbs are broken.

What these mini-cases tell us is that a number of our children are barely surviving. They are ‘below the radar’, outside the limited reach of the country’s Children Services and other agencies which see to the welfare of the young and powerless. The crises observed and studied can be divided into a number of categories. Note carefully that the chapters in the report do not follow this order.

Vulnerability to HIV.

An alarming number of adolescents both in and out of school are either sexually active or have had sex without using a condom on all occasions. Whilst boys are more willing to have sex without using a condom, girls, especially those dependent on a male partner, have less power of choice.

Personal prejudices on the part of adolescent service providers hindering youth from accessing condoms and guidance.

Prejudices embedded in the Jamaican culture seem to work against youth in denying them access to condoms and counsel. This is most noticeable in the pharmacies where some cashiers and others refuse to sell condoms to adolescents on the grounds that they do not wish to support early sexual activity. Denying sexually active youth access to condoms exposes them to HIV, as they have to resort to unsafe sources, including corner shops, where condoms are sometimes exposed to excess heat and are kept for sale beyond the expiry date.

Extreme hunger in and out of school.

A significant number of children survive on one meal per day (and in some cases do without) including some who are attending school. Yet there are a small but special group of those in school who actually pass their examinations with above-average grades.

Extreme violence and fear.

Sixteen (16) of the 410 youth were found to be involved either as perpetrators or victims of gun violence. Almost all the fears expressed by the respondents are related to violence.

Extreme exploitation of working children.

The type of work some boys were found doing could be fairly described as difficult even for adult males. Most working adolescents gave their work a high score in terms of levels of satisfaction, especially since they and their families often depend heavily on the money earned. Some of the boys actually enjoyed their work on the grounds that working made them feel like adults. The critical point, though, is the fact that many complained that their work was too difficult and regretted having to do it.

Extreme physical abuse by parents and teachers, among others.

Mothers and female teachers were found to be the main abusers of In-school adolescents. Fathers, whilst they participated less as abusers proved to abuse physically with greater severity. Out-of-school children were found to be abused by individuals in the community and the police almost as much as parents. Out-of-school females suffered additionally from spousal violence.

Extreme sexual abuse of girls (but boys also) by family, and community members.

The findings on rape were shocking. One of eight respondents was either raped or molested or perpetrated the crime. Sixteen girls reported being raped. Boys seemed more likely to participate as perpetrators of forced sex. Nonetheless, 5 boys were found to have been coerced into having sexual intercourse.

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