Today, as we commemorate International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, let us renew our commitment to end all forms of violence against our women and girls, men and boys.
This year’s theme “Unite to End Violence Against Women: Peace in the Home and in the Society” is particularly timely insofar as it reminds us that violence against women is an ongoing concern, which if not addressed will severely affect the development of our nation.
The figures and reports about violence against women and girls should concern each of us. It is estimated that one in every five women will become a victim of rape or attempted rape in her lifetime. A local study found that fifty per cent of women in Jamaica have been forced into their first sexual experience; and the official figures show that violence in the home accounts for 4 per cent of all murders.
Violence against women and girls impedes the development process and hinders efforts towards peace and security. Violence against women affects everyone in society – rich and poor, women and men, boys and girls – and everyone must play a part in ending the violence.
The Government of Jamaica is committed to the systematic monitoring and improvement of the measures which have been put in place towards ensuring the achievement of gender equality. The elimination of gender-based violence is at the heart of all gender equality commitments. This is evident in our national commitments and affirmative actions towards international, regional and national conventions, treaties and agreements.
In March this year, the Cabinet approved the National Policy for Gender Equality which provided fresh impetus for the Government’s gender mainstreaming focus.
Through the Bureau of Women’s Affairs, we are currently finalising a National Strategic Action Plan to eliminate gender-based violence in Jamaica under the implementation of the Strengthening State Accountability project through funding from UNWomen. The Plan highlights six priority areas to address the problem of gender-based violence and involves partnerships between government agencies, civil society groups, international development agencies and the private sector. The Action Plan is intended to raise awareness concerning gender-based violence and provide guidance to develop and implement programmes and strategies to address the issues in a coordinated and holistic fashion.
We are also developing a Sexual Harassment Policy in collaboration with key stakeholders to propose terms and provisions for the enactment of sexual harassment legislation which will facilitate redress for women and men in the workplace, educational institutions, and in situations of accommodation.
I also wish to highlight Jamaica’s participation in the UN Secretary General’s UNiTE to End Violence Against Women Campaign in which several of our entertainers have been helping to sensitise audiences about the various forms of gender-based violence at all levels.
To heighten local awareness and provide further sensitisation on the issue of violence against women and girls, the Ministry of Youth, Sports and Culture through the Bureau of Women’s Affairs in collaboration with UNWomen will host a concert in Emancipation Park today starting at 5:30 p.m. The concert will involve some of the local artistes who are part of the UNiTE to End Violence Against Women Campaign, as well as other entertainers. I invite as many people as possible to come and support the cause.
We have to tackle this problem on several fronts; and by engaging the entire society, particularly our men who are the main perpetrators of the violence against women. I am pleased at the progress of the Bureau’s training and sensitisation activities that target men in the fight to eliminate gender-based violence. The programme focuses on issues of reproductive rights and includes training in etiquette and food preparation which has equipped the participants with skills for gainful employment. The project has moved into the next phase which includes training in computer repairs.
The Government of Jamaica is working hard to create an enabling environment to eliminate gender based violence. Join us.
There will be several opportunities for Jamaicans to participate in initiatives to eliminate violence against women, especially at this time. Today, also signifies the beginning of the Sixteen Days of Activism against Gender Violence, and the Bureau of Women’s Affairs in partnership with multiple stakeholders will be involved in a number of activities to educate the public on gender based violence as well propose strategies towards eliminating this scourge. Each of us can contribute to those discussions and the actions that must follow.
It is time for all of us to take action to eliminate violence against women.
Olivia Grange, MP
Minister of Youth, Sports and Culture
with responsibility for Women’s Affairs and Gender Issues