Artistes enlisted to combat gender violence

-region’s rape stats among highest worldwide

CARICOM Advocate for Gender Justice Dr Rosina Wiltshire has appealed to artistes to help combat gender based violence in their communities, while noting that some lyrics reinforce the culture of normalcy that prevails in the region.

This call was made at the opening ceremony of the ‘Caribbean artistes UNITE-ing against Gender Based Violence (GBV) Workshop,’ in Suriname on Monday, the CARICOM Secretariat said.

The workshop was organised in tandem with UN Women to train Caribbean artistes to raise awareness on gender based violence and promote positive attitudes and behaviour towards a more gender sensitive community, through the use of edutainment. Fifteen artistes from the mainland countries of Belize, Guyana and Suriname participated in the three-day workshop, at the end of which they were expected to produce campaign tools of jingles, Public Service Announcements and songs to build awareness on GBV.

CARICOM Deputy Pro-gramme Manager for Culture Riane de Hass Bledoeg, in welcoming the participants to the workshop, said that the Caribbean Community fully supported the UN campaign and had also launched its own initiatives to address “this serious threat to the stability and security of the Community.” In March 2010, on International Women’s Day, CARICOM appointed Wiltshire, former UNDP Resident Representative to Barbados and the OECS, as the CARICOM Advocate for Gender Justice. De Hass Bledoeg said that Dr Wiltshire had conducted research in six member states, including Suriname, Belize and Guyana, and was now preparing what was expected to be a groundbreaking report on “Youth, Masculinities and Violence” in CARICOM. The report, which will be completed by year-end, will help to guide the regional strategy to reduce the high incidence of violence against women and girls in the Community.

In her message to participants, read by CARICOM Secretariat Communications Officer Dorrett Campbell, Dr Wiltshire revealed some “frightening statistics on rape, noting that all countries in the Caribbean for which data was available experienced rape rates that were among the highest in the world.” She noted that there was a “culture of normalcy” within the Caribbean and no outrage in communities against offenders. This, Dr Wiltshire opined, resulted in the failure of victims to report the crime; fearing that they would be making themselves even more vulnerable to ridicule and hostility. She also noted that the culture of normalcy had been reinforced by the lyrics of some artistes and as such she challenged the 15 artistes at the workshop to use their talents to make a positive difference in the lives of women and children in their communities.

In endorsing the efforts of CARICOM, UN Women Communication Specialist Sharon Carter-Burke noted that notwithstanding the gains made to reduce GBV, the problem persisted.

She called for increased collaboration and more creative methods to support legislation and other measures which had already been implemented. “We therefore need to find tools of analysis and language to make crystal clear the connection between societal violence, unequal gender relations and harmful stereotypes that put women and men in harm’s way and undermine the possibilities for security and the flourishing of life for the many,” she charged.

In addition, Suriname’s Minister of Home Affairs Dr Soewarto Moestadja who gave the main address, said that “raising awareness alone is not sufficient to combat this type of violence.” He noted that it was important to examine the root causes, consequences and frequency of violence against women in order to assess the effectiveness of measures implemented to prevent and eradicate violence. Dr Moestadja also called for an adoption of administrative and legal measures and the provision of specialised services – including shelter – for victims of gender based violence.

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