Caricom, UN sign agreement to tackle family violence

CARICOM and the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) has signed an agreement with the United Nations and the European Union for an initiative geared at reducing family violence in the Caribbean.

The virtual signing ceremony for the Spotlight Initiative Caribbean Regional Programme entitled Strengthening Regional Cooperation to Prevent and Respond to Family Violence in the Caribbean was held Tuesday.

The focus of the initiative in the Caribbean is the reduction in the prevalence of incidents of family violence and at the country level Spotlight is being implemented in Belize, Grenada, Guyana, Haiti, Jamaica and TT. The regional programme is intended to complement the six-country programmes to increase regional policy coordination and functional cooperation and to promote regional standards for institutions that address violence against women and girls at the national level.

UN Resident Coordinator for Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean States Didier Trebucq explained the Spotlight Caribbean programme will specifically address family violence in all its forms – physical, social, sexual, economic and also emotional abuse – within family relationships. He said the programme will address four interrelated needs: ensure institutions are gender-responsive; establish comprehensive and evidence-based prevention programmes aimed at changing social norms and gender stereotypes; promote collection and use of quality comparable data to inform public policy and decision making, and to support autonomous women’s movement to influence and monitor policy to ensure continuity. The programme will also set regional standards for essential service delivery and advance best practice models for prevention and ensure the engagement of women’s organisations. It will be done with the collaboration of four UN agencies: UNDP, Unicef, UNFPA and UN Women.

EU head of development cooperation Luis Mais said recent studies in Grenada, Guyana, Jamaica, Suriname and TT show the prevalence of intimate partner violence and child sexual abuse is very high with 27-40 per cent of women reporting they experienced violence at the hands of their partners.

“This is why we want to put a spotlight on this scourge and help women and girls to step out into the light.”

He reported the EU has provided 50 million euros for Spotlight support in the Caribbean. He said for Spotlight to make a difference in the lives of women and girls in the Caribbean sincere commitment is required from all stakeholders especially governments. He stressed enacting legislation is not enough as implementation and education were important for the required for structural societal change.

“We can throw all money in the world at this problem but ultimately it is one of the most deeply rooted problems that need society to take a firm stance on. When we allow, tolerate, accept or simply ignore violence against women and girls we are no better than the aggressor.”

Caricom deputy secretary-general Ambassador Manorma Soeknandan said violence against women and girls is one of the most widespread human rights violations and is a global scourge cutting across all generations regardless of race, colour, creed, ethnicity. She said studies in Grenada, Guyana, Jamaica, Suriname and TT found one in three women was affected by some form of gender-based violence. She added in Guyana specifically one in every two women aged 50-64 years was abused by an intimate partner and 50 per cent never reported it to anyone.

She said Spotlight is a global multi-tiered programme to eliminate all forms of violence and she was pleased with the funding for the programme in the Caribbean. She added the exceptional, ground-breaking initiative will spend years improving services for women and children.

Head of the human and social division of the OECS Dr Carlene Radix said the region can benefit from the EU and UN global multi-year partnership to eliminate all forms of violence. She said with covid19 and the unplanned lockdowns people were spending unplanned time together and this has contributed to reported and non-reported violence. She advised there needed to be an agile collection of data and use non-traditional methods to monitor and raise flags on people suffering.

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