Tuesday, 26 June 2012

Who is Vulnerable

What is a vulnerable group?

Over the next few weeks I will be writing about the issues that may affect some of the vulnerable groups on St Helena.  Vulnerable people are those who are more likely to be discriminated against than others in the society in which they live.  On St. Helena these groups include: women; children; persons with disabilities; older persons; those detained in prison; and people who are less well educated than others.

‘Vulnerable’ should be understood as a comparative term, and not as a negative one. For example women in Afghanistan are denied the right to education; in parts of China and India girl babies are aborted or killed at birth; in the UK women regularly apply to the courts on the grounds that they were selected against for jobs and promotion. All face discrimination, and all are vulnerable, to a greater or lesser extent.

Often this discrimination occurs because the people who make up the vulnerable groups are less well represented in Government, on committees or other decision making bodies. This means that the needs of, or the impact of a decision on the vulnerable may not be fully understood.

Who might be vulnerable here?

Here are the statistics for the sizes of the vulnerable groups on St. Helena:

49% of the total population
Under 18
Over 65
16.5 of the total population
2.5% of the total population
Those detained in prison
This is an average figure over the last 3 years
Those who are less well educated
Of the population over 12 years old have difficulty reading and/or writing

St Helena Census 2008 (source SHG web-site)

In addition to these, we have a group not represented elsewhere.  During the ten years between the 1998 census and the one taken in 2008, the island’s population declined from 5,644 to 4,255. This decline is due to economic migration, with many people of working age leaving to go to The Falkland Islands, Ascension and the UK. Often one or both parents of children will go overseas, leaving their children with relatives or friends.  This group contains around 185 children about 20% of the population under 18. It is generally thought on the island that this group of children may be particularly vulnerable but no practical research has been done (to my knowledge) to find out if this is indeed the case.

Over the coming weeks I will be looking at each of these groups, to see where their rights may be being infringed.  I’ll start next week with our children and young people.

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