– It is high time we heed the cry of women…lawmakers and investigators must play their part – Minister Webster
By Abena Rockcliffe
Even though it seems as if the figures of deadly violence against women have significantly reduced as
compared to last year, Minister of Human Services and Social Security, Jennifer Webster remains worried.
As she addressed those in attendance at an inter-faith service held by her Ministry yesterday, the Minister pointed out that 10 women have been killed so far this year by their lovers as compared to over 20 at the end of last year. She said that much needs to be done to further reduce this figure.
The inter-faith service was held in observance of International Day for the elimination of violence against women. It was held under the theme “From peace in the home to peace in the world, let us end gender based violence.”
The ceremony was hosted at the Ministry of Human Services’ Lamaha and East Streets branch.
It was well attended by individuals from various religious-based organizations, Non Governmental Organizations, staff of the Ministry, Child Care and Protection Agency (CCPA) and at least two gender-based organizations.
Minister Webster, who was the keynote speaker at the event, informed the gathering that the occasion marked the beginning of a 16-day intense activism period to commemorate the elimination of gender-based violence.
Webster told the audience, inclusive of men, that males must recognize the need to treat women with respect and seek to protect them. She added that males should realize that their presence on earth is due to their mother, and in that sense, honour them.
The Minister encouraged that men be cognizant of the role they play in the world as well as the equally important role played by women.
Speaking on sexual violence in the home, the Minister said that many girls under the age of 15 in Guyana have experienced some form of sexual abuse at the hands of their loved ones in their own homes.
She noted too that this causes them to suffer from emotional trauma which is something they have to live with for their entire lifetime.
She asserted that it is indeed a sad situation when one is violated like that in the home, a place where “we all should feel protected.”
The Minister charged, “We must rise against that.” She went on to note that what is equally disturbing is the fact that many victims of sexual abuse end up without justice. Against this background she urged that lawmakers and investigators alike recognize that these are issues that must be dealt with in a timely manner to negate a chance of victims feeling as if they “have nowhere to turn.”
“The time has come to heed the cry of women,” asserted the Minister as she stressed her conviction that “a society that does not uphold the rights of women can never be unified…violence against women must have no place in Guyana.”
She also called for more persons to report incidents of domestic violence and pointed out that more than 35 per cent of women and girls experience some form of violent behaviour in their lifetime.
A young group called “The Messengers” delivered a memorable rendition of the popular song “Like a bridge over troubled waters.” The performance was significant in that it was an all-male group and they managed to capture the spirit of the event within the performance, perfect harmony and all.
Sean Thompson recited a self-written piece titled “Let the women speak.” In his poem, he spoke about the burden women carry twice, when they are abused and when they remember the ordeal. Thompson also managed to reflect on a realistic account of the emotional pain women feel, blaming themselves for their suffering at the hands of a lover. However, he ended the poem with words of encouragement and upliftment.
Tiffany Douglas, the Ministry’s very own, performed a cover of Pink’s song “Try.” In brief remarks before she began her rendition, Douglas touched on the importance to “research your partner’s past and his generation.” She said that women must now seek to have an idea of the trend and patterns of the way men in the family treat women before moving to the next stage in a relationship.
A line in the song that evoked thought was, “funny how the heart can be deceived more than just a couple times.”
The ceremony also had prayers by representatives of the Hindu, Muslim, Christian and Bahai communities, and a moment of silence for women who lost their lives due to domestic violence.
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