My life journey to protect Jamaican children and youth

In 2017, a 17-year-old student named Mickolle Moulton was murdered. The outrage was intense, and the pain was profound. Her family, friends, teachers and those who wished to pay their respects gathered for a candlelight vigil in her honour. Despite the general atmosphere of sadness, the vigil was one that celebrated her life, achievements and impact. An all-rounder with a remarkable presence felt by all, Mickolle represented promise; she represented the future of Jamaica.

As I stood there listening to her friends, teachers and family reflect on her life and her journey, it became clear that we should never take comfort in or become complacent existing in a country that normalizes violence against our children. As I reflected, I was confronted by a plethora of thoughts and feelings that left me anxious, angry and at the same time, apprehensive. In that moment, as a young person and as an advocate, I understood my purpose in ensuring the safety of our nation’s children. 

Her murder made me stand up

In response, I rallied the support of several youth organisations across the island to appeal for justice on behalf of Mickolle. Living in a country that has been plagued by crime and violence, we were committed to addressing this tragedy. In seeking to dismantle the systems that promote and perpetuate fear and terror among our children, we demanded a swift and proactive response from those in power as protecting our nation’s children was a matter to be regarded a national priority. 

Photograph of Christopher Harper meeting students at Camperdown High School in Kingston during a series of school tours by Talk Up Yout/UNICEF to support the launch of U-Report in Jamaica on May 22, 2017.
UNICEF/JAM/Talk Up YoutChristopher Harper meeting students at Camperdown High School in Kingston during a series of school tours by Talk Up Yout/UNICEF to support the launch of U-Report in Jamaica on May 22, 2018.

Considering the frightening reality that has engulfed our island paradise and exposed our children to even greater harm, I have been increasingly moved to tackle the issue of violence against children. Every Jamaican child or young person that is abused or killed is a hinderance to any progress that we might wish to claim as a country.

Rights of young Jamaicans cannot be ignored

As a young Jamaican, growing up in an environment that often disregards the rights of children and young people, thereby leaving us vulnerable and susceptible to all kinds of abuse, I decided that I had a responsibility to help ensure a reduction or elimination of acts of crime and violence against our children.There is a pressing need to challenge the status quo and in recognising that many have a limited understanding or appreciation of their rights, I am of the view that we should aim to establish an enabling environment within which our children and young people are respected, protected and their rights fulfilled. 

Having spent the greater part of my adult life actively advocating for the rights of our children and our youth,largely facilitated by organizations like the Jamaica Youth Advocacy Network (JYAN), the Caribbean Vulnerable Communities Coalition (CVC) and UNICEF Jamaica, I will do what it takes, and work at every level needed, to help Jamaica become a country where our children’s rights are protected and where they can achieve their fullest potential. In reflecting on my role as a human rights advocate, my platform as an attorney, and my capacity having spent a year abroad expanding my skills and knowledge, I remain committed to using my power, ability, influence and purpose to help achieve positive change. 

Fulfilling children’s rights is at the heart of what we do at UNICEF. This year, as we commemorate the 30th anniversary of the Convention of the Rights of the Child, we feature a special ’30 under 30’ series, highlighting amazing Jamaican children and youth like Chris who are using their voices and talents to help protect and realise the rights of other young citizens. The focus of the series is on efforts to protect children from violence.

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