Sixteen schools will be targeted in a 16-day initiative by the Guyana Responsible Parenthood Association (GRPA) to put the spotlight on domestic violence here.
The initiative got underway on Wednesday – one day before the observance of the International Day to Eliminate Violence Against Women – at the association’s Quamina Street location with the intent that no other child’s cherished schooldays will be squashed by abuse.
Queen’s College was selected as the first school and Executive Director of GRPA Beverly Braithwaite-Chan said this was done because of the slaying of former student Neesa Gopaul. Braithwaite-Chan explained that the initiative is part of GRPA’s gender-based violence programme and they have found it necessary to join forces with the Ministries of Human Services & Social Security and Education and the International Planned Parenthood Federation/Western Hemisphere (IPPF/WHR) to further advance the cause for men, women and children to live their lives free from violence.
She said it is a 16-day global initiative and they consider it necessary to launch it in 16 schools which would see the students talking about the issue.
The GRPA’s head said that Gopaul’s case, in which the child had experienced sustained domestic violence, hammers home the point that more work needs to be done with the young people to help them find a way to “deal with very, very gruesome ills that are becoming a monster in our security.”
She said that they would continue their work beyond the sixteen days in order to reach other schools around the country.
Student Shivani Lalaram who said she was a friend of Gopaul, said that the day the 16-year-old was killed Guyana lost one “of its most valuable resources.”
She observed that legislation to prevent domestic violence in Guyana and other Caribbean countries – all of which have seen an upsurge in domestic violence – has been delayed for too long and eventually became a reality because of the upsurge over the years “of obvious forms of domestic violence.”
In spite of the laws, however, the child said in many situations they seem to be rather ineffective because domestic violence continues to plague the society.
“Too often it has been reported in the press that the necessary action by social workers and law enforcement bodies are not taken timely enough and in many cases there are no follow-up actions resulting in victims losing their lives,” the child said.
She indicated that it is now imperative for the coordinating agencies to have quick response programmes and follow-up actions to allow for better preventative and corrective approaches. She also pointed out that the poverty level in Guyana is so high and the unemployment rate continues to climb while abuse of alcohol and drugs continue to plague various communities.
“There is time for a new social human order to bring moral ethics and a good way of life to all peoples in the Caribbean and therefore leaders in the region must see this issue as serious enough to put on their heads of government meeting and try to devise a programme to correct the ills plaguing the lives of the innocent,” the child asserted.
Meanwhile, according to head of the Women’s Affairs Bureau Hymwattie Lagan, something is wrong in Guyana as for some reason “it is getting dangerous . . .and sometime or the other even though we have laws, maybe we have to be rigorous in prevention.”
She told the students that “we have the penalties” but they are in the hands of others and implementation has to go on and it is essential that everyone is involved in the drive.
“We can’t play because we are losing our young minds, the future generation of this country and we can’t allow this to happen,” Lagan said.
While urging the students to commit themselves to the fight, she told them that they have been chosen as ambassadors and they should take the pledge strongly and form a group in their school to fight the cause.
“We don’t want anymore Neesa Gopauls, not from QC, not from any other schools. I am just referring to her because at that tender age a brilliant life has been snuffed out foolishly, and we don’t want it to happen again.”
Michael Gillis of the association, who is facilitating the focus group discussions among the various students, said that following the 16 days of activities it is hoped that they would have gotten students’ perspectives on domestic violence and that it would become documented.
“We are hoping that we would have the necessary resources to do the verbatim transcriptions…then to do some coding and to develop themes..,” Gillis said.
He said also that at some time the perspective of the students would be made public and can be used as empirical evidence.
Other secondary schools that will be targeted in this initiative are Carmel, Charlestown, South Ruimveldt, North Ruimveldt, Christ Church, St Joseph’s High, North Georgetown, Tutorial, Richard Ishmael, St George’s, Campbellville, Central, Tucville, The Business School and Brickdam.