Celebrating Mandela: 67 minutes for children in Jamaica

Nelson Mandela fought for social justice for 67 years. On 18th July each year the world commemorates the struggle and values of the former South African President through volunteerism and community service.  Mandela Day is a global call to action that celebrates the idea that everyone has the power to transform the world, the ability to make an impact.

This year I chose to participate in “YOGA FOR CHANGE: Lift up not lock up our children”: an event held through collaboration with Jamaicans for Justice with the Lift Up NOT Lock Up Campaign, the Jamaica Yoga Association (JAYA) and Universal Empress (Nadine McNeil) in association with the South African High Commission. 

Yoga for Social Change
Yoga for Social Change
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67 candles to be lit for our children

I joined the JFJ, JAYA and Universal Empress yesterday for 67 minutes of yoga in tribute to Nelson Mandela’s fight for social justice and Jamaica’s fight for the upliftment of her children.

For 60 minutes I stretched and thought that my discomfort paled in comparison to what some of our children in adult lock ups endure. For 7 minutes I meditated to the sounds of birds in Hope Gardens and thought that many of our children are burdened by circumstances that makes the concept of play seem irrelevant. I placed my monetary donation in a jar and expect it to be handed over to a children’s home in Jamaica. The full effect of a candlelight vigil was diminished by the late setting summer sun, but this only highlighted my awareness of the fact that many children will wait for a very long time before they are empowered to let their lights shine.

In Jamaica, there have been numerous reports of children being held in adult lock ups and reports of those being held in state care receiving less than adequate attention for their overall rehabilitation and care. According to Jamaicans for Justice, a citizen’s rights action organisation advocating for good governance:-

“The stories of abuse and neglect of children in both children’s homes and detention centres are too common. We are distressed that the children who are in the greatest need of care and support are getting the least of it,” – according to a recently launched petition by the group.

The JFJ called for -among other things – the removal of children from the Fort Augusta Adult Correctional Centre and police lock-ups and the removal of the designation “Uncontrollable Child” from the legislation as a reason to lock up a child.

Additionally, the group has called for a revision of the Child Care and Protection Act and the Corrections Act, and the creation of smaller rehabilitative centres for children – not juvenile jails.

On the other hand Minister of Youth and Culture, Lisa Hanna has strongly opposed statements by the JFJ, pointing out that some 148 children have been removed from police jails between January last year and May this year.

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Lift up NOT lock up our children

Here is one video posted by the JFJ that speaks to the situation for some children. While there are some elements I personally disagree with in the way in which JFJ’s message is packaged, the message itself is not to be discounted. I make a call to you to check the reports and judge for yourself.

“Lift up not lock up our children”

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