More than two dozen councillors from several indigenous villages in the Rupununi were recently able to benefit from a sensitisation workshop on legal and social issues.
This is according to a statement issued by the Ministry of Indigenous Peoples Affairs, which said that the workshop was hosted in collaboration with the Ministry of Social Protection. It focused on Sexual Abuse and the Sexual Offences Act, Domestic Violence Act, Human Trafficking and the Counter Trafficking in Persons Act and other labour related issues.
The sensitisation workshop, which lasted for two days, was said to have been headed by a team from the Ministry of Indigenous Peoples’ Affairs and Social Protection’s Labour Department who interacted with persons from 18 village councils in Central and South/Central Rupununi, Region Nine.
“Statistics on trafficking in persons indicate that more indigenous persons are susceptible to trafficking, sexual and labour exploitation. To bring awareness, similar initiatives are being held countrywide by the Ministerial Task Force on Trafficking in Persons [this includes several government and non-governmental agencies] to bring awareness to this scourge,” the statement said.
Thus, the collaboration sought to inform village councils of their rights and responsibilities under the various Acts mentioned above.
“It has been noted that when social issues arise, persons in the communities are sometimes unaware of the procedures that should be followed, leaving them vulnerable in the process [hence] the need for sensitisation. As part of its commitment in the fight to enable our indigenous people, the ministry has recognized the need for villages to become more aware of society’s social ills and the approach needed to adequately address them,” the statement noted.
Meanwhile, the ministry said it was in the process of planning similar sessions for Aishalton Village, Deep South Rupununi in early August, while similar interventions will be made in Annai and Karasabai later in the year.
According to the statement, villages were asked prior to the session to select two persons who are community oriented to receive training so they can return with a reservoir of knowledge to be shared with residents of the respective villages.
Senior Social Worker Pauline Welch who headed the team was quoted as saying: “Coming out from this important exercise, persons were able to have a better understanding of critical aspects of the labour, sexual offences, domestic violence and trafficking in persons act. Misconceptions were clarified as it relates to the roles of law enforcement officers and the various agencies involved in addressing these issues.”
She also noted that participants pointed out the need for additional human resources to assist in addressing these issues and a more concerted effort by those in authority to prosecute perpetrators.
According to the statement, participants welcomed the initiative and requested future training in parenting skills, they also asked the Ministry of Social Protection about the possibility of establishing a labour office in the region.