The Malta Independent 19 August 2019, Monday

Social awareness and public cleanliness

Justyne Caruana Sunday, 4 August 2019, 09:44 Last update: about 16 days ago

“Never doubt that a small group of committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” (Margaret Mead, American anthropologist)

 

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Last Tuesday, 30 July, was the World Day against Human Trafficking – a crime that exploits men, women and children for numerous purposes, including forced labour and sex. The victims of human trafficking are often tricked or misled into believing that they are being taken to work to help feed their families, but they are eventually forced, kidnapped or bought from hard-up families that have no choice but to give up, or sell, their very own children.

To mark the occasion, the Gozo Ministry teamed up with the Parliamentary Secretariat for Reform, Citizenship and the Simplification of Administrative Process to launch the campaign ‘Uman, Bħalek’ (Human, like You) as part of a national awareness initiative against human trafficking.

Modern-day slavery is a huge worldwide problem. The United Nations states that, since 2003, the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) has collected information on about 225,000 victims of trafficking detected worldwide. The results of human trafficking are a loss of rights and identity and the use and abuse of the victims concerned. This year, the Day was intended to raise awareness and increase preventative efforts.

 

Awareness: a first step

It was indeed very appropriate that attending the launch were representatives of the Gozo Business Chamber and the Gozo Tourism Association. The launch turned out to be a frank discussion with people who are directly – and tirelessly contributing to the flourishing economy on the island through the many job opportunities they create. In my introductionary speech, I stressed the importance of eradicating this worldwide modern scourge through better awareness in the business community. It is quite challenging to recall a saying that may shed light on the issue: “People were created to be loved. Things were created to be used. The reason why the world is in chaos is because things are being loved and people are being used.”

Whilst it is true that each and every citizen should be aware of this problem, the business community can frequently be faced with this issue. Consequently it has a greater responsibility and must be constantly aware of the negative effects of exploitation and abuse of workers on both the individual and the community at large.  

 

Gozos business community

Gozo is enjoying an economic boost of such proportions that businesses are finding it difficult to find local workers and are increasingly relying on the recruitment of workers from abroad. This scenario brings with it huge responsiblity: we are all human and each and every worker, irrespective of his or her colour, creed, race, gender or religion, must be treated with dignity and respect. All employers must strive to treat their workers with equity and rigorously follow their legal obligations.

I am confident that the Gozitan entrepreneurial spirit extends beyond personal gain and that the concept of bonus pater familias can be further enhanced to include corporate social responsibilty a concept that has an impact on all aspects of society, including workers. Mutual respect between employers and employees will certainly lead to a successful business operation.

Together with the bold and encouraging input of our entrepreneurs and employers, workers are the main contributors and cogs in the economic wheel that will further enhance the wellbeing of each and every citizen in the years to come. I have full trust in the professional abilities and business acumen of the Gozitan business community and am confident that the awareness campaign on human traffiking should lead to further societal inclusivity and reciprocal respect in the private sector on the island.

 

Clean communities, healthy citizens

The importance of cleaniness is a socio-economic value-added asset that is vital to Gozos economy. It encourages repeat visits and increases property value: prospective buyers will be attracted to a clean environment because it reflects well on the local councils, management and citizens of the neighbourhood. A clean environment is also a sign of success. Clean public spaces are as important as interior aesthetics and therefore both businessess and residents would do well to keep their streets clean and presentable.

It is in the remit of our local councils to keep our towns and villages clean. They are well aware of the importance of cleaniness and do their utmost to keep their territory free of debris and unsightly rubbish. In fact, a large portion of their allotted budget goes towards public cleaning and rubbish collection from bulky refuse collection to street-sweeping and washing.

The Gozo Ministry works hand in hand with the local councils and directly sustains their efforts to keep Gozo clean. We are constantly contributing towards this goal even though it is not in the Ministry’s remit to do so and few people are aware of our committment because the socio-economic benefits of having a clean environment far outweigh any other endevours. A clean environment in fact is a basic ingredient from which every other enhancement emanates.

Carelessness or ignorance?

It hurts me when I see industrial or bulky refuse dumped  in the countryside and other public spaces. I know that mayors and councillors share my feelings and we are all deeply saddened by this behaviour. Responsible citizens often complain and are also deeply upset by it because there are frequent cleaning services which makes one wonder if this behaviour is the result of ignorance, carelessness or downright vindictiveness.

It is the duty of each and every citizen to keep Gozo clean and this includes the thousands of Maltese and foreign visitors who spend entire weeks on our island. The services and schedules offered by the Local Councils are there for visitors to follow as well. They must, at the very least, respect Gozo’s residents by adhering to the Local Councils’ services and schedules.

A few months after becoming the Minister for Gozo I launched a rapid response intervention team that monitors every area of Gozo for rubbish and litter. The Ministry is determined to prioritise cleanliness and we are constantly promoting this and educating the public. Clean air is also part of our promotional campaigns. I recently announced free transportation on the Gozo Channel ferries for electric cars that make the crossing during Santa Marija week, thus promoting emissions-free vehicles on the island.  

 

A challenging priority

Ensuring that Gozo is clean and well-kept is an expensive and time-consuming committment that my Ministry takes very seriously indeed. The island’s timeless beauty and charm must be kept as intact as possible and this includes collectively and actively ensuring that the characteristic tidiness of our houses is reflected in our public spaces, beaches, squares and streets.

Apart from promoting our social and cultural heritage, we must think of our beautiful island as a showcase that reflects our deep-rooted respect for the environment: it must be clean, polished and pleasing to the eye. Gozo must be a welcome haven that opens its arms to each and every visitor if unmarred by litter and debris – a place that pleases both the eye and the senses.

In this respect, I welcome and support the many initiatives taken by dedicated teachers and NGOs who encourage our young students in their love for the environment through their various clean-up activities. This is a direct contribution towards active citizenship that starts at a young age in a way that we can look forward to embrace more responsible Gozitans in the near future. Environmental awareness and participation in hands-on events at such an early stage are the steps that will lead to a sustainable beauty for the benefit of future generations.

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