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Child rights activist Diana
Mahabir-Wyatt says the $500
babycare fund for underpriv-
ileged mothers is okay but
they also need classes on
how to be better parents,
among other things.
Mahabir-Wyatt, who head-
ed a Child Protection Task
Force appointed by the Prime
Minister in 2013, also dis-
missed the idea that the fund
announced in Monday s
budget will encourage people
to go and make babies.
"Personally, from my life s
experiences and observations,
I don t think that is a valid
"People make babies for
plenty of reasons, not for $500
a month," she said.
said, a programme for under-
privileged mothers was need-
ed along with the $500.
She said she had a non-
waiting in the wings to help
set up the programme.
"It is called PLOTT (Pow-
erful Ladies of T&T), and is
comprised of executive
women. They have written
out a proposal for the pro-
gramme," she added.
Mahabir-Wyatt said the
programme included parent-
ing classes for underprivileged
"They will take the classes
when they come to collect
their money once a month.
"They will be supported by
babysitters who will watch
their children for the one-
and-a-half hours while the
class is going on," she said.
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Mahabir-Wyatt on baby fund:
Teach moms how
to be better parents
BROWN: PM WAY OFF MARK
But head of the Network
of NGOs Hazel Brown
rejected the $500 fund,
saying the PM has
completely missed the mark
in finding a way to help
Brown recalled that in
2010, the Network of NGOs
rejected a similar proposal
by Persad-Bissessar called
"She got some very stern
responses for that. We told
her artificial milk is very
dangerous and that we
promote breastfeeding. She
dropped it, it never
happened," Brown said.
"But she has come back
around (with the baby fund)
with it. She's very careful
this time not to mention
milk. She dropped it this
time under a social welfare
Brown said what young
needed was help with how
to get back to school, to be
better parents and how not
to have more babies. She
said data showed that
young girls in T&T got
pregnant at 13 to 15 years
and by the time they reach
19 have about three babies.
"There should be some
programme in the $500 to
track the development of
the mother and her children,
but there's no provision for
this. You need the
programme first and the
$500 may or may not be
"The Prime Minister is
way off the mark in finding
an appropriate intervention
for the development of
and their children," Brown
recommendations in the
report of the Child
Protection Task Force
submitted to the PM in
December 2013 were
To explain her point, she
quoted 18th-century queen
of France Marie Antoinette
who, when the people asked
for bread, said, "Let them
"People like cake, right?
The Prime Minister made
people happy but has not
provided them with the
information they need to
prevent them from
continuing in a negative
"So they will make one
child and go on and on," she
Brown said T&T had one
of the highest infant
mortality rates in the world
and children of
might not even live a year.
"We don't want cake.
Come with real solutions."
There are still some kinks to be
worked out with the proposed $500
babycare grant, Finance Minister
Larry Howai said yesterday.
He admitted that he was not even
sure whether the money allocated to
babies born to underprivileged parents
will run for just one year.
The minister made the comment
while fielding questions from the
media after a post-budget panel dis-
cussion hosted by the American
Chamber of Commerce (AmCham) at
the Hilton Trinidad, St Ann s.
There has been much discussion
and criticism of the fund, with many
saying it will lead to a further depend-
Saying the initiative fell under those
responsible for social development,
Howai said: "What they were thinking
is that they wanted to see how that
system would work and I am not sure
that it is intended for only for one
"I think you will get the payment
in the first year... in other words, it
is not something that will be paid on
an annual basis to the parent, as
opposed to that it will only be for one
He said while he made the
announcement of the fund in Mon-
day s budget, the programme s final
details still need to be worked out.
"While they did send forward the
proposal with a costing which is
included in the budget, I still need to
go through the details of it to see
exactly how they were proposing to
roll it out in total," Howai said.
"As I understand it, they were look-
ing at, potentially, some voucher sys-
tem which would then be cashed at
supermarkets which already cash the
food card, but I need to actually sit
down and go through the details of
it."Vice-principal of the University of
the West Indies St Augustine campus
and professor of Gender, Social Change
and Development Dr Rhoda Reddock,
who was among the panellists, said
there had been a lot of discussion in
the media about the grant and a lot
of it was unfortunate.
"It really suggests almost a misog-
yny in the society but also, maybe, a
belief that certain children are not as
good as others.
"At the same time, for many parents
there are many demands of that first
year that need attention.
"The babycare provision is based
on a recommendation that something
needs to be done to support parents
in the managing of child-bearing and
child-rearing," Reddock said.
But the grant, she added, must be
part of a larger programme to support
"Parenting in the 21st century is
not 20th-century parenting and there-
fore the State and civil society all have
the responsibility for the establishment
of a social environment that allows
reconciliation of work and family,"
She said there was a common view
that mothers should be responsible
for their children and they should not
have them if they "cannot mind them."
"I always say that children do not
choose their parents and they do not
ask to be born, so children cannot be
held accountable for their parents of
the circumstances of their birth," Red-
Reddock said it was up to the society
to ensure that all children have an
equal chance to develop to their fullest
Saying investment in the social
sector was also an economic
development, Reddock said
investments in the social sector
equated to investment in people, in
social stability and in human rights.
"Investment in the social sector
today will reduce costs in other sectors
in the future, in sectors like national
security, the judiciary, the prison
system... all of which are now being
blown totally out of control.
"Investment will also contribute to
reductions in household and business
expenditure and security, which is
becoming one of our largest costs in
any institution," she added.
Reddock said some of the major
problems facing our society today were
social, psychological and managerial.
"There is an impression shared by
some of our leading economists and
bilateral organisations that T&T is a
bloated welfare state with too much
expenditure on social programmes,"
She quoted a 2013 International
Development Bank (IDB) report which
then said that the country has an
extensive social protection system with
more than 120 programmes.
"In T&T, despite the economic
recovery, a structured system of social
service delivery was not re-established.
"Unfortunately, we have focused
mainly on a range of modalities for
cash transfers which are in my opinion
incorrectly referred to as social
programmes and welfare provisions,
but which in practice often become
bases of political patronage," Reddock
REDDOCK: SOCIAL INVESTMENT CRITICAL
Howai admits babycare grant not finalised
Kinks to be worked out
Indies' Dr Roger
Howai and UWI
listen to a
member of the
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