03/05/2008, 00.00
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Sri Lanka: the protection of children must be a priority

by Melani Manel Perera
The secretary of the ministry for social services and assistance has reminded the international non-governmental organisations, the private sector, and government institutions of the urgent responsibility of defending the youngest.

Colombo (AsiaNews) - Children are easy and innocent victims for all kinds of violent abuse, and must be treated as if they were one's own children.  This has been restated by Viji Jegarasasingam, secretary of the ministry for social services and assistance, who has invited all of the governmental and non-governmental organisations, public and private, to work for the protection of minors.  "We must work together to help children, this is a responsibility for both the government and the private sector", Jegarasasingam said during a ceremony for the awarding of the "diploma in child protection" held on Saturday, March 1, in Colombo.  "I greatly appreciate the dedication of the Christian Children's Fund (CCF) in protecting the youngest, especially those who live in rural areas".

According to figures published by the department of censes and statistics, the Sri Lankan population counts 4.5 million children under the age of 15, while 1.5 million are between 15 and 19 years.  A considerable number of them are reportedly orphans, homeless, and poor.

Together with Viji Jegarasasingam, the ceremony was presided over by the representative of the National Institute of  Social Development, and the diploma was awarded to 51 officers working in the sector.  The award went to Child Rights Promotion Officers and the state's officers in the southern provinces of the country.

The conferral of the diploma follows a year-long course sponsored by the National Institute of Social Development, the ministry of social services and assistance, and UNICEF.

V.A.M. Kumari, one of the officers awarded and recognised as the one with the best performance, said: "This diploma gives us more confidence in ourselves and a better understanding of the field.  We have invested our talents and challenged our way of thinking.  I am certain that the contents of the course will help us to offer a better service to the children in our respective areas of work, especially to those who suffer from physical or mental problems".

According to secretary Jegarasasingam, it is fundamental that those who work with children be prepared and that they know how to use all of the resources on behalf of minors.

The national director of the CCF, Gamini Pinnalawatte, said in an interview with AsiaNews: "The 51 officers who work in the field of the protection of children have an immense responsibility.  The diploma supports them in better carrying out their tasks.  I hope that it leads to better service of children, and I hope that the officers will have success in this".

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