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  • Prime Minister, the Most Hon. Andrew Holness, today (March 9), launched the Spotlight Initiative Country Programme for Jamaica, which focuses on gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls.
  • The Spotlight Initiative will be a three-year programme costing approximately US$10.6 million. It will contribute to transforming the society into one where women and girls can thrive, free of any kind of violence towards them.
  • It is funded by the European Union (EU), with contributions from the United Nations (UN).

Prime Minister, the Most Hon. Andrew Holness, today (March 9), launched the Spotlight Initiative Country Programme for Jamaica, which focuses on gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls.

The Spotlight Initiative will be a three-year programme costing approximately US$10.6 million. It will contribute to transforming the society into one where women and girls can thrive, free of any kind of violence towards them.

It is funded by the European Union (EU), with contributions from the United Nations (UN).

Speaking at the launch at the Office of the Prime Minister, Mr. Holness, said it will focus on addressing the issue of “normalisation of violence” in Jamaica and encourage society to see family violence as a public issue requiring consistent and concerted effort to address.

The Prime Minister explained that the initiative will focus its intervention within four parishes that have been determined to have high levels of violence towards women and girls, while work will continue on the legislation and policy aspects to impact the entire population.

The parishes are Kingston and St. Andrew, St. Thomas, Clarendon, and Westmoreland.

Mr. Holness said although the initiative will take a woman and girl-centred approach, men and boys will also be engaged in order to address the issue of toxic masculinity.

Highlighting figures from the Women’s Survey 2016, in Jamaica, Mr. Holness shared that one in four women has reported experiencing physical or sexual violence in their lifetime.

“What we are doing here today is a policy response supported by our international partners, the EU and the UN, to respond to what is essentially, in Jamaica, a public crisis of epidemic proportions,” the Prime Minister said.

He noted that domestic violence is not “a man and woman business”, adding that it can have several other implications.

“If you beat up your woman, it has an impact on the State, and it has an impact on the children, who will grow up to probably become abusers or acceptors of abuse. It has an impact on our murder rate, and it has an impact on the well-being of the community,” Mr. Holness said.

“It creates an acceptance of violence as the means of resolving conflict and it has an impact on our economy. When an abused woman can’t go to work or when someone dies as the breadwinner, it has an impact, so this is not man and woman business, this is now the business of the people of Jamaica, so the Government of Jamaica will intervene,” he emphasised.

Mr. Holness said the initiative will improve women’s access to services by strengthening existing referral, reporting and case management mechanisms and tools that link survivors to service providers along the continuum of care, ensuring that rural communities and non-traditional groups are not excluded.

He noted that that it will also access and use alternative forms of justice, other than the criminal justice system, to provide easier access to justice, especially in cases of family violence.

“A particularly innovative feature of the programme is that it will utilise visual arts, Jamaican popular music, storytelling, theatre and photography to convey messages which aim to promote positive parenting, gender equality and respect among girls, boys, men and women,” he said.

Mr. Holness informed that the content of the message will be geared primarily towards addressing the root cause of family violence and the promotion of positive gender norms and gender equality.

He said the Government is deeply appreciative of the support of the partners – the European Union and the United Nations.

“Jamaica is committed to this programme, as it supports our vision of a disciplined and harmonious society where everyone’s sacred rights and freedoms are protected and where all Jamaicans can self-actualise,” Mr. Holness added.

The Prime Minister said the Government has been working towards building a culture free of violence, a culture where women and girls are respected, protected and celebrated.

He cited the 10-year National Strategic Action Plan to Eliminate Gender-based Violence in Jamaica and a public education campaign, titled, ‘No Excuse for Abuse’.

“Along with UN Women, we have been building out an islandwide social media campaign to increase awareness for the protection of women and girls. At the same time, we are engaging men and boys as key partners in the ongoing programme to provide empowerment,” Mr. Holness noted.

He said significant national budgetary allocations have been made for the construction of three nationally owned and operated shelters for abused women and their children. “This fiscal year, we should be able to have all three open and operational,” Mr. Holness said.

The establishment of shelter is in keeping with the10-year National Strategic Action Plan to Eliminate Gender-based Violence in Jamaica.

The Spotlight Initiative is a global multi-year programme being implemented in more than 25 countries and five regions across the world to eliminate all forms of violence against women and girls by 2030.

Implementation will be led by a number of UN agencies, working closely with the Ministry of Culture, Gender, Entertainment and Sport as well as civil society organisations.

Other speakers at the function included Minister of Culture, Gender, Entertainment and Sport, Hon. Olivia Grange; Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, Senator the Hon. Kamina Johnson Smith; Director, Sustainable Development Unit, Executive Office of the Secretary-General at the United Nations, New York, Michelle Gyles-McDonnough; and Director for Latin America and the Caribbean at the European Commission’s Directorate-General for International Cooperation and Development, Jolita Butkevicience.

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