By Jeff Trotman
The Ministry of Labour, Human Services and Social Security is moving to establish a White Zone in Region Ten, Hymawattie Lagan, Administrator of the Women’s Affairs Bureau (WAB), said on Thursday.
The White Zone, which is a safe place where someone who has been the victim of domestic violence can obtain temporary lodging for a night or two, is expected to be launched during the second half of this year, Lagan said. She made the announcement during a special presentation at the June Statutory Meeting of the Region Ten regional Democratic Council (RDC) to apprise councillors of the aims and objectives of the WAB. Her visit was also part of an effort to seek a closer working relationship between the Georgetown-based entity and other social service agencies as well as the Region Ten Women’s Affairs Committee.
During the discussion, Regional Chairman Sharma Solomon said Regional Vice-Chairman Byron Lewis RDC Councillor Maurice Butters and the Health and Environment Committee Chairman are on the Board of the Linden Hospital Complex and they will contribute to the establishment of the White Zone in Linden.
Solomon said the Region Ten RDC is always prepared to assist women, who are one of the more vulnerable groups. He pointed out that the Regional Executive Officer and the Deputy Regional Executive Officer are women as well as heads of department of the Region Ten Administration for Education, Health and Finance. Solomon also pointed that four women are on the Region Ten Democratic Council while another one is tipped to fill the current vacancy on the council that came about through the recent death of the late Junior Barrett.
Solomon said he believes the first step to correct the many ills in the society is empowerment and in the context of the discussion, women must be given the opportunity to develop themselves as well as contribute to the development of the society.
Lagan said a White Zone has already been launched in Region Six and one at Wakenaam, both with acceptable results but there is need to strengthen the initiative. She also said the White Zone would be equipped with basic cooking facilities. It would also provide security as well as ready access to social services personnel, including probation officers. Medical attention, counselling and ready access to the police would also be available.
She said a white flag would be conspicuously flown, indicating the White Zone – a place of refuge for anyone, who is suffering from abuse. However, some RDC councillors expressed the view that persons may be reluctant to go to the White Zone because they might not want people to be aware of their plight. It was also pointed out that some powerful professional women suffer silently from domestic and spousal abuse.
But Lagan said that a lot of people, including men went to the White Zone in Region Six, which had its flag flying and they were not afraid or ashamed to speak about their problems.
She said formerly domestic violence was kept under the carpet but as people become more aware of the importance of speaking out, reports are increasing.
She further stated that some women compound the problem by reporting incidents of domestic violence then subsequently trying to withdraw the matter.
Lagan said: “We have police officers, who are not doing what they are supposed to do and sometimes when the men go to make reports, they laugh at them and make them mocking stocks”.
She said that when personnel from the WAB are aware of cases in which men are being abused by their spouses the department would encourage them to make reports.
Meanwhile, she was informed that the paediatric ward of the old Mackenzie hospital will be used as a drop-in centre, which is very much the same as a White Zone.
Lagan was accompanied by Doreen Nabiyah-Bi of the Women’s Affairs Office and Ernestine Lugan, Vice Chairperson of Region Ten Regional Women’s Affairs Committee.