JIS News

The Department of Local Government and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), today (September 10), signed off on a pilot project intended to make communities safer for women and girls.
Dubbed, ‘Strengthening Community Safety Through Local Government Capacity Building’, the project is to be implemented in two communities over the next 15 months, at a cost of US$240,000 (J$21 million).
Addressing the contract signing ceremony at the Department of Local Government, in Kingston, Minister of State in the Office of the Prime Minister, with responsibility for Local Government, Hon. Robert Montague, said the project would give the country a chance to build safer communities.
Under the project, members of the local government structures will be the key actors in the development of community-wide planning strategies for crime prevention.
Mr. Montague said the local authorities were in the best position to implement the project, as Mayors and Councillors are in strategic positions to initiate and co-ordinate local actions and adequately address the social demands.
The aims of the project are to be achieved through assessment of the local context of women’s safety; training of local authorities and community-based organisations in the use of safety assessment and audit tools; the carrying out of safety audits and local safety appraisals; and the participation of women in discussions regarding community safety.
Mr. Montague said it was in the local authorities’ reach to make places, such as markets, transportation centres and public sanitary conveniences secure for women and children, as currently many face threats to their security in these areas.
The State Minister pointed out that he was happy that a key plank of the project would be direct participation by women. “When a parish council is reviewing a building application, just as how we in the past brought on the disabled community to look at these plans, we want to bring in the women,” he added.
Project Manager, Mr. Robert Hill, said the expected outcomes of the project include: increased capacity of local authorities and targeted communities to attain a more peaceful, secure and just society; a sustained reduction of violence and social injustice in targeted communities; and strengthened capacity of community stakeholders to support community policing and protection.
Mr. Hill also noted that a major goal of the project was to see how best it could be replicated in other communities, after the pilot.
“What we are looking at is replication…and a model that can stand the test of time, that can ensure that the safety and protection of our women, girls and vulnerable groups are under a sustainable and consistent programme of action,” he explained.
Resident representative of the UNDP, Mr. Minh Pham, said he hoped the project would “provide a model of local governance that is inclusive,” as a major plank of the project was citizen participation and collective action. He said the project would also show that the building of safer communities requires social mobilisation, even more than force by the police.
According to statistics from the Centre for the Investigation of Sexual Offences and Child Abuse, violent crimes have been increasing and assault is the most common cause of injury to Jamaican women, while 70 per cent of all assaults in 2005 were reportedly against children.

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