The OECS and UNICEF have partnered to raise public awareness on child abuse in sports.

Despite the Caribbean being recognized for its sporting talent at the regional and international levels, child abuse in sport occurs, but public discussion on the issue is taboo. It is widely acknowledged that physical activity provides all people with a wide range of health benefits, and can limit the effects of many of the world’s leading diseases.

However, while sport can be used to promote healthy lifestyles and to help create a protective environment, it opens up the very real potential for child abuse with victims often powerless to respond. This includes verbal, physical or emotional violence, whether intentional and unintentional, verbal abuse, physical maltreatment, sexual misconduct between a coach and a child, bullying, improperly treated injuries, playing while hurt/injured, inadequate equipment and poorly maintained or unsafe equipment and facilities.

The launch of the Communication Strategy on Child Abuse in Sports was also followed by a training workshop dedicated to professionals focusing on identifying and addressing abuse issues.

The OECS-UNICEF campaign aims to raise public awareness on this multi-dimensional issue across the OECS member states. The strategy targets athletes from 10 to 29 years old and the overall realm of youth—parents, teachers, coaches—to provide information on identifying incidents of abuse and the best means of assisting the victims.

The communications campaign has three specific goals: to mobilize member states to integrate child protection as part of its sporting policies; to mobilize heads of sporting disciplines in member states to develop and implement comprehensive child protection policies; and to enhance the capacity of youth (aged 10-18 and 18-29) especially those working in the area of sports to implement actions, behaviours and practices that can protect younger youth from harm and abuse.

“With the launch of the strategy in five member states, the OECS Commission’s goals are to bring the produced material to the attention of the regional populace and galvanize relevant stakeholders into beginning or continuing efforts to stamp out child abuse in sports in the Eastern Caribbean,” said Yoshabel Durand, OECS Commission Program Specialist for Social and Youth Development.

The campaign will be aided by the distribution of brochures and radio and television public service announcements in the OECS member states.