More foster parents needed, says activist

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A gender rights activist Zahra Airall has called for more people in Antigua & Barbuda to avail themselves to be foster parents.
“I want to make an appeal to people to contact Social Welfare Services and actually volunteer to do something like being foster parents,” the Antigua Girls’ High School teacher said. “There is a great need for people willing to adopt children from abusive households, especially during the volatile time in the victim’s life when investigations are ongoing about their relatives and trusted family friends.”
She said, “One of the biggest challenges in helping to protect our children through these situations is that when you decide to investigate, when you decide that you’re going to get involved, the first question you must ask is ‘how involved am I willing to get?’”
Stating that people usually ask what can be done to help victims of sexual assault and incest, Airall suggested that people consider becoming a part of the solution. She told OBSERVER media: “I know some time ago, Welfare asked for foster parents and that is something that we need in this country. You making a complaint, are you willing to open your home to a child? Are you willing to get them to a safe place in the interim while the investigation is going on?”
These comments and others were made by Airall on OBSERVER media in the immediate wake of reports of the recent sentencing of a man who had sex with his daughter. According to her, since the publication, she has received reports from three people who have lived in similar situations. “One of the cases is very similar to the one that was released with the 18-year sentence … [and] I asked the person who called me, how involved are you willing to get?”
Airall also addressed social media harassment she received after she made her initial comments on incest in Antigua & Barbuda. She expressed her disappointment in the public focusing on her attire in the photo attached to the story rather than the message about the social issue.
“That reflects on the priorities in this country or how easy it is to look at trivial matters and amplify trivial matters while somebody’s child is being molested and when somebody’s attire is more important than coming together as a people and as a community to protect our children. Something is seriously broken within the fabric of our humanity in Antigua & Barbuda,” she claimed.
The Antigua Girls’ High teacher also cautioned the public against making jokes about sex crimes, which she believes deter victims from speaking up.
“Even certain songs, stop laughing at it and stop encouraging that behaviour because even if you think you wouldn’t want it to happen to yourself, just the fact that you are laughing is encouraging it. Do not be afraid to ask questions and do not be afraid to challenge policymakers.”

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