Highlighting the pervasiveness of violence against women, CARICOM Secretary-General Dr Carla Barnett is pointing to data which states that one in three women has experienced physical and or sexual violence at some point in her lifetime, usually from an intimate partner.
Barnett, speaking ahead of today’s (November 25) start to 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence, also referenced data on the Caribbean Region from five CARICOM member states which indicate incidence rates as high as one in every two women.
“This year’s observance highlights the disproportionate impact the COVID-19 pandemic has had and continues to have on women,” the Secretary-General stated, adding that the pandemic has resulted in the rapid escalation of all forms of violence against women and girls to which the world was unprepared to respond.
COVID-19 also laid bare, she said, inequalities that pose greater risks for violence including food insecurity, unemployment, undue burden of paid and unpaid care work, and increased migration flows… .”
Using her statement to highlight the plight facing adolescent girls, she said they faced increasing risk for sexual exploitation with loss of household income and school closures.
“The United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) maintains that, globally, one in four women was a child bride. UN Women reminds us that the economic fallout is expected to push 47 million more women and girls in Latin America and the Caribbean into extreme poverty in 2021, thereby reversing decades of hard-fought progress in our Region,” Barnett said, underlining the severity of the crisis facing women and girls.
Against that backdrop she applauded women’s rights organisations, including civil society groups that have responded to the vulnerabilities facing women and girls, which the COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated.
Those groups, she added, have been at the vanguard in providing early warning throughout the pandemic, and in making efforts to integrate into COVID-19 response plans, services for at-risk women and girls.
CARICOM CITIZENS URGED TO JOIN IN SOLIDARITY
In her message to mark International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women (IDEVAW) ,Barnett called for comprehensive and inclusive policy approaches in addressing all forms of violence against girls and women.
She urged CARICOM citizens to join in solidarity with the United Nations (UN) in playing a part to “Orange the World and End Violence against Women now,” as she underscored the theme of this year’s observance.
The promotion of the colour orange in this year’s observance symbolises a “brighter future for women and girls,” and calls for a coalescing of minds to ensure that one day, women and girls will live free of violence, Barnett said.
In addition to the CARICOM Secretary General’s comments, Jamaica’s gender minister, Olivia Grange, outlined that the theme for this year’s public forum being staged in the island to mark IDEVAW is ‘Safer Spaces for Women and Girls’, “which underscores the need to create an environment for all women and girls which is free from violence”.
Said Grange: “The true measure of any society can be found in how it treats its most vulnerable citizens, its women and girls.
“Today we seek to create awareness on all forms of violence against women and girls and the impact on the country. Our aim is to promote a zero-tolerance approach to all forms of violence.
“As such we invite the public to support us as we put measures in place to address and resolve issues which can escalate into acts of violence.”
The forum gets under way with an opening ceremony at the Knutsford Court Hotel at 10:00 am with Grange giving the keynote address in the afternoon.
She will be preceded by greetings from the European Union, the United Nations Development Fund, the UN Women and the United Nations Population Fund as well as presentations by Sharon Robinson, principal director of the Bureau of Gender Affairs; Dr Tamika Peart, director of the National Shelter Unit; The Reverend Courtney Morrison, speaking on the role of men in eliminating GBV; and Janiel Robinson, clinical psychologist.
Barnett lauded the European Union (EU)-United Nations (UN) Spotlight Initiative for making significant progress in preventing and eliminating violence against women and girls, noting recent successes it achieved in capacity building interventions targeting positive masculinity in men and boys.