Men and boys from the Essequibo Island of Wakenaam, yesterday signed onto the Wakenaam Declaration ’Stop black and blue’, aimed at stemming domestic violence.
The signing took place at the Wakenaam Cottage Hospital where a White Zone facility was established.
According to the Government Information Agency (GINA), Wakenaam is a chapter of the Skeldon Declaration and is a collaborative effort among the Ministry of Human Service and Social Security and non –governmental organizations, as well as the Men Empowerment Network and the Men’s Affairs Bureau (MAB).
Human Services Minister Priya Manickchand, who was present at the event, said that the administration has over the years continued to extend its services to all vulnerable groups and that the issue of domestic violence is not new or confined to Guyana.
“Guyana like any other country faces the issue of domestic violence against women and children and no government alone can deal with the problem, it requires a combined effort from all in society’, Manickchand said.
She noted too that most of the victims of domestic violence are women and children, and as such, she was pleased to see many of them assisting in addressing the issue.
She also noted that while many have been addressing the needs of women, they failed to create a space for men to discus their roles and problems. As such the establishment of the MAB was conceptualized.
She added that the government, having recognized that Guyana could not progress to the position it wishes to unless the various forms of domestic violence are addressed, established a number of initiatives aimed at tackling the issue. Such initiatives, according to GINA, includes the domestic oversight committee, the MAB and the Woman Affairs Bureau, legal aid services, passage of relevant legislation and the establishment of shelters and white zones.
“We have done so much, but for me we have not seen a proportionate amount of reduction in violence compared to what we have done”, Manickchand noted.
Since the establishment of the MAB, she said that the body has been engaging thousands of men countrywide, since men are also victims of domestic abuse.
Head of the MAB, Reverend Patrick Findlay stated that the Wakenaam chapter is one of many which will be initiated around the country.
“Men who are prepared to make a promise not to hit or sexually abuse women and children, promise to take every effort to control your behaviour and other men to control their behaviour so that women and children can live without violence will sign onto the declaration”, Findlay stated.
Meantime, Regional Chairman, Julius Faerber urged residents of the island to be responsible and “to take a grip of our society to ensure that it is not overcome by domestic and other forms of violence’. Another guest at the event, Reverend Marcus Stapleton told the gathering that men are expected to be leaders and not abusers and he noted that a man who truly loves his wife loves himself and when he abuses her, it’s an abuse against him.
According to GINA, the White Zone is a place of neutrality, where vulnerable persons, especially women and children, can seek help and protection from human predators.
The strategy was a collaborative effort between the Social Services Ministry and the Wakenaam Night Committee, which cleared the path for the launching of the White Zone on the island. GINA stated that over 30 persons from the area were trained to assist in addressing domestic violence.
The facility will provide temporary accommodation for abused women, children and men.
According to GINA, the first declaration was launched in November last year at Skeldon where scores of males signed the Skeldon Declaration, declaring their commitment to stamp out domestic violence.