Completing strategy against gender-based violence is priority – Webster

The completion of the National Action Plan against gender-based violence is among the priorities this year for the Ministry of Human Services and Social Security.

At a news conference outlining the ministry’s plans for the year, Minister of Human Services Jennifer Webster yesterday noted that the response to last year’s countrywide National Domestic Violence ‘Conversation,’ which is informing the action plan, had been good.

She added that the Domestic Violence Committee has started to meet and recommendations circulating from it include having an arm of the police force staffed by more professional social service personnel and possible amendments to the Domestic Violence Act.

Webster said the ministry’s overall objective for the year is to continue to improve its efficiency in the delivery of quality social services to the various administrative regions. To this end, among the most significant activities planned for the year is the completion of the Homeless Shelter at Onverwagt, in Region Five, the operation of the Mahaica Children’s Home by the first quarter of this year and the Family Court.

Jennifer Webster
Jennifer Webster

Government unveiled plans for the US$2 million home at Onverwagt for street dwellers in 2009, with the goal of providing them with medical and material support. The Venezuela-funded project, which is made possible under the PetroCaribe oil concessionary agreement, with additional monies for soft furnishings given by the government, will include a medical facility to house a resident doctor, nurse, mess hall and kitchen, training room/conference hall and a recreation centre. It is expected to accommodate over 100 persons and will be built in a dormitory-style, providing separate quarters for men and women.

Webster stated that she hopes that the facility becomes operational very shortly. She had previously announced that the shelter would be completed by December of last year, after delays caused by two contractors, who were subsequently fired.

The minister also mentioned that 60 per cent of the work on the Mahaica Children’s home is done and the project will be completed by the first quarter of this year. She added that she hopes that with the completion of the facility, a number of privately-run homes can upgrade their facilities as well.

The multi-million-dollar structure is funded by Digicel, which will hand over a fully furnished structure upon completion. The home will replace the existing structure, which houses 50 children. It will feature girls’ and boys’ dormitories, bathrooms, laundry room, study room, recreational room, infirmary, kitchen, nursery, dining room, office and caretaker’s quarters.

As it relates to the Family Court, which came into being in 2008 and will come under the jurisdiction of the High Court, Webster said that she hopes the facility becomes operational by this year after its furnishing is completed. The Family Court will deal with all family-related disputes and training for the judges who will preside over the cases will be conducted within this month and next month, she added.

Webster also mentioned plans to strengthen the ministry’s operations to fight Trafficking in Persons (TIP). “We plan to continue to conduct several sensitisation workshops and campaigns countrywide and to beef up our trafficking in persons’ staff so that we’ll have more persons on the ground in those hinterland communities,” she stated.

There were six reported cases of TIP confirmed by the ministry for 2012, out of the 32 reports that were made. All six of these cases are before the courts. Webster did not identify the areas where the cases originated but Amerindian Affairs Minister Pauline Sukhai last week said that her ministry had not recorded any TIP cases among Amerindians in 2012.

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