Remember ME - You Me and Dementia

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Journalists in Ghana schooled on child rights protection

The Department of Social Welfare (DSW) in collaboration with UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) on Friday organised a workshop to sensitise journalists on the importance of ethical reporting on child rights protection issues.

According to Mr Iddris Abdallah, a UNICEF consultant on child protection with the DSW, recent media reporting on child abuses and issues relating to their health, had not been treated ethically, as most of them had either exposed these vulnerable ones to further stigmatisation or public ridicule.

Mr Abdallah said though the media was doing a great job in trying to genuinely bring out the plight of children, they should take into account the negative publicity, some of which may be damaging to the child’s future, and try to amend such mistakes by adhering to the rules and regulations governing publications on minors.

He also cautioned journalists, especially those in the electronic and the print media, to desist from showing the faces of children, as a way of sympathising with their plight, but rather use ethical methods such as blurring of pictures.

“Avoid the uses of sexualising images of children such as the filming or publishing of pictures of hermaphrodites, which may expose the child to public ridicule, stigmatisation or family abandonment,” he said.

He said though some media adopt the style of obstructing the eyes with black bars across the eyes, it was an unacceptable method which criminalises the child.

Mr Abdallah advised journalists to also avoid the temptation of being emotional when reporting on sensitive issues such as rape and defilement, where in most cases victims were filmed on television.

He stated that any act that demoralised the status of the child, leading to further distress, was considered unethical and should be avoided.

Mrs Margaret Kutsi Atsi, Director of Social Welfare, DSW, expressed worry over the current proliferation of orphanages.

She said there were over 127 orphanages nationwide, most of which operate under distressed conditions.

She said the Department had visited almost all these institutions to ascertain their level and mode of operation and realised that none of the orphanages had registered licence of operations.

Mrs Atsi said a Department had drawn up a massive programme to halt the establishment of orphanages and further ensure that operating institutions got registered and gazetted after satisfying all the requirements.

“Those who fail to satisfy the requirement would be closed down,” she said.

Mrs Helena Obeng-Asamoah, Coordinator, Child Reform Initiatives, noted that the majority of the almost 4,000 children living in the un-registered orphanages are indeed not orphans but were driven there by their poverty stricken parents.

“It came out during our research programme that out of the 4,000 orphans 3,800 had families; there was poor record keeping, no gate-keeping and general conditions in most facilities were unacceptable.”

She stated that conditions of care were pitiful with most staff being unqualified, adding that the institutions had, in many cases, not complied with the most basic social welfare requirements.

The government of Ghana, through the DSW, has initiated a dynamic process called the “Care Reform Initiative (CRI)” to transform the sector and promote family-based care.

The government believes in families as the best place for children and supports families and foster parents to care for children without appropriate parental care.

She cited some disadvantages of the orphanage system as lack of permanent attachments on the part of children to one caregiver and as a result they may grow up with a feeling of being unloved and with little self-esteem.

“Babies are often neglected because of understaffing and they may experience severe, irreversible developmental delays, while most children continue to battle with the issue of social stigmatisation,” she said.


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