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Fresh look at ‘missing’ girls issue

BPWC to tackle issue of missing girls in the new year

by Latoya Burnham

While police continue efforts to educate the public in hopes that it will lessen reports of missing individuals, one local women’s group plans to tackle the issue of missing girls head-on in the new year.

Marianne Burnham

President of the Business and Professional Women’s Club of Barbados, Marrianne Burnham, confessed this morning that after reports of another missing young girl over the holidays, the issue was revived in her mind as her group would look at in the new year.

The club president said during the teen outreach programmes they host in schools from time to time, they had heard some of the stories of children, among them young girls who were troubled.

“My thoughts on this is that we need to address the issue. In terms of the consequences, there is no evidence of anybody being arrested for this so they continue to do it; they love being defiant; it is something to talk about with their friends and gives them notoriety,” she said, though acknowledging there were some with genuine problems at home.

She said though that she had also heard about such incidents of girls missing being a “gang initiation” though that was less of a wide-spread issue than some of the other causes.

“Girls run away because there is trouble at home and I believe Dodds has some examples of that because girls are picked up for wandering and sent there, but they are often running away from some sort of turmoil at home.

“It needs to be addressed in schools. My way of tackling it these days is to try to get to them before it happens. Your friend ran away, why did she run away; and do a kind of informal study to find out why. What are the issues you are facing? What does running away achieve?” she queried.

She said youth needed to be engaged on these issues.

“Actually when you talk to these youth your mind is blown by the information that they have, that you receive. It shows you the mind set.”

Noting that she did not know what other women’s or youth organisations might be doing, Burnham said: “I know that we will be tackling this in the schools. We half tackled it with the TRAP programme but my plan for the year is to have a more consistent programme to be a pilot in some of the schools, having this programme offered for six weeks and then maintain once a month or something to have this discussion, to have more solid guidance programme that delves into these issues.”

Additionally, founder and chairperson of the United Youth Leaders of Barbados, Christaneisha Soleyn told Barbados TODAY at the start of the group’s leadership retreat that youth groups could possibly help lessen the incidents of girls that go missing through running away by being more out in the community.

As a person who lost a close friend to suicide, the youth leader and CARICOM Youth Ambassador stated that she had agonised as to whether there was more that could have been done to help her friend and whether she had missed the signs. As such, she said it made her even more determined within the UYLB to ensure that her administrators and membership were in closer contact.

She said it was also one of the reasons she stressed on outreach by youth groups.

“I think it is important for youth organisations to be support groups for young people, so they know that if there is something going on that they can come to one of us and talk to us,” she said, adding that the group placed emphasis on positive peer pressure.

She said they stressed consequences and responsibilities of actions among young people and good decision making.

Police Public Relations Officer, Inspector David Welch said that cases involving missing persons, whether minors or adults, were serious matters for the force.

He said while they advised relatives not to wait full 24 hours once they recognise a member is not where he or she normally should be and can’t make contact with them, actually tackling the basis of the issues are too varied to come up with a single programme.

“One of the main problems when people go missing is that there are many reasons, so to do a prevention programme is not straight forward because the causes are not the same straight across the board,” he reasoned.

“What we can do is try to educate the public and those who go missing that they have loved ones who are interested in where they are and that they would be understandably concerned,” he said.

He said it was customary to treat all missing persons, regardless of age, as serious because there were instances in the past where individuals were found deceased.

“When someone goes missing, it affects the relatives, it requires resources on our part but we are concerned and will be until that person is found,” he said.

Additionally, the lawman noted: “We know that juveniles have been found wandering and placed before the courts and a large percentage have been young girls. All we can do is seek to educate about what goes into it and why they need to alert us.”

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