Shouts from hundreds of Guyanese at the Bourda Ground last evening broke the silence and announced the beginning of another national fight against domestic violence.
It is time to stop writing, to stop looking on silently and to start a loud war against the violence which has claimed the lives of so many victims in recent months, activists said at a rally.
The rally, which was organized by a group of women, marked the end of a day of activities promoting awareness of domestic violence and the beginning of a programme to further promote awareness by focusing on information sharing and education as well as raising awareness through the arts.
Last week Varshnie Singh of the Kids First Fund along with overseas-based Guyanese Dianne Madray of the Irene Madray Recreational Arts and Resources Centre (IMRARC) and Kaieteur News columnist Stella Ramsaroop announced that they would be organizing the programme.
Beginning yesterday morning support groups like Red Thread, Help and Shelter, Every Child Guyana and many others set up information booths at the Bourda Ground, Georgetown. During those hours, several participants said, hundreds of Guyanese from all walks of life attended, indicated an interest in taking a stand against domestic violence and pledged to learn more about the issue and to help victims.
“There is a definitely and interest out there to help those suffering,” one participant said, “and all these people were waiting for was for someone to present them with a game plan.”
Last evening a culture-packed concert was hosted by the organizers to entertain and further sensitize those in attendance about the damage domestic violence has done to society and the importance of fighting this scourge.
Singh, a former first lady who had alleged that she had suffered “high tech” abuse during her marriage to President Bharrat Jagdeo, told Stabroek News that it was Madray, the founder of IMRARC, who developed the idea for a coalition to fight domestic violence. The response from human rights agencies and both the public and private sectors, Singh said, was great.
Various government officials, including Minister of Human Services and Social Security Priya Manickchand, attended the activities preceding last evening’s rally and were very supportive of the initiative, Singh said.
Work, Singh said, is being done to fight domestic violence but still there is room for more action to be taken. The response to the launch of the programme, she said, exceeded expectations. Singh also expressed hope that the collaboration will continue to get the same support.
International Day for Elimination of Violence Against Women was also observed yesterday.
Stop writing and make it happen!
Columnist Stella Ramsaroop stressed that it is time society stops talking about domestic violence; it is time they stopped writing about it without making a direct effort to fight it.
This, she announced, is the time for everyone, young and old, male and female, rich and poor, to stand up and fight. If we want a society free of domestic violence, if we want a country where our women do not suffer in silence at the hands of their partners, she said, we have to make it happen.
It was Madray, she said, who first contacted her about the collaboration and she immediately agreed to get on board. “When she told me about it my reaction was literally “Hell yeah!” I was so excited about making this thing happen,” Ramsaroop said.
There was a general feel of excitement at the launching of the programme, Ramsaroop told Stabroek News, and many persons – not necessarily victims of domestic violence – are happy that something is finally happening.
Beginning tonight, she reported, several workshops will be held in various communities to help spread the awareness of domestic violence. Workshops, according to Ramsaroop, will be conducted across the country in an effort to reach as many Guyanese as possible.
Today from 3 pm to 8 pm a workshop will be held at the National Library. The group will move to Berbice tomorrow to host another workshop at the World Harvest Church, Gay Park, New Amsterdam. This workshop will commence at 3 pm. Another session will be conducted from 5.30 pm on Sunday at the Life Springs Cathedral, Chateau Margot, East Coast Demerara.
The next generation of men…yes!
Ramsaroop also said that many young men attended and expressed an interest in fighting against domestic violence.
In fact, Ramsaroop said, the younger men appeared more interested in fighting domestic violence and more willing to work towards creating a society free from it. “This is definitely a great thing to see that so many young men are interested in and willing to support this cause,” she said.
The next generation of men is an indication of what our country’s future will be like, Ramsaroop noted, and if they are willing to take a stand against domestic violence then it definitely means that we are heading to a better place.
In June Red Thread Guyana started a youth arm dedicated to the fight against domestic violence and to inform youths about the issue and equip them with the knowledge they need to protect themselves as well as help others in their community.
Delroy Clarke, one of the Red Thread youths, explained that on a daily basis he witnesses parents in his home community, Charlestown, verbally and physically abusing their children.
The 18-year-old further said that when he sees a man hitting a woman it causes him great alarm. The youth, he stated, need to understand that this is not our culture, this is not right and it is an example which should not be followed.
“When a neighbour hears another neighbour crying out because they are being beaten by a husband or whoever the abuser might be they just ignore. They tell themselves that the man is just jealous or angry and he is expressing it…no one seems to be taking domestic violence seriously and this is what we are fighting for. We want everyone to be involved in this fight,” Clarke said.
Suppression of emotion must end
Several participants at yesterday’s rally told Stabroek News that they believe domestic violence is more prevalent in the East Indian community because of several social factors.
Writer Sookree Boodram, when questioned about this, said that there is definitely a high degree of domestic violence in the East Indian community. This, she believes, can be blamed on the somewhat faulty socialization of East Indian children.
Boodram, a past victim of domestic violence, recently wrote a book about her suffering at the hands of an alcoholic spouse and her struggle to escape. As part of her journey, Boodram said, she was a member of an anonymous group and never once did she see a fellow East Indian at those sessions. Even in a very liberal society East Indians, according to her, still suppress their emotions.
In some Indian homes, Boodram said, males are taught that showing emotion is a sign of weakness and females are taught to be submissive to men and that fighting for their rights is a sign of disloyalty and is dishonourable.
“What you find happening here,” Boodram explained, “is that there is a suppression of emotional expression for the men…a lack of expression will eventually lead to an eruption or these men will have to find other ways to express the things they have bottled up which they have not been able to express.”
Emotions are meant to be felt and expressed. Expressing emotions, she explained, is a sign of maturity and all parents must realize that if they are not allowing their children expression of emotion then they are tampering with their development.
“So yes I do believe that other ethnic communities are more open but this needs to change…the suffering has to end,” Boodram stated.