St Mary tackles domestic violence and child abuse
PORT MARIA, St Mary:
A campaign funded by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) to reduce violence against females in St Mary culminated last Thursday with dozens of young adults and high-school students marching through the town of Port Maria.
The two-day initiative, which was launched the previous day with a symposium focusing on issues such domestic violence and child abuse, observed the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women (November 25) and the ensuing 16 days of activism against gender-based violence.
According to project officer for the Bureau of Women's Affairs, Tara-Sue Morgan, the campaign is aimed to raise awareness and encourage people to talk more openly about subjects that are often considered taboo.
She told The Gleaner: "We thought it was appropriate to mark the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women in St Mary, so in collaboration with UNESCO and the police's Community Safety and Security Branch (CSSB), we organised a gender-based violence symposium and a march in Port Maria.
"Even though St Mary has one of the better crime rates, violence against women is still an issue. Earlier, we heard about a mother who refused to report that her daughter had been repeatedly raped by the stepfather. A lot of the time, things like this happen because of ignorance, so we're here to sensitise people about it, and remind them there is always a way out, another alternative.
"Depending on where you are and what is happening to you, there are several avenues - the police, the BWA, the Victim Support Unit, Shelter, and if the person is in school, there are guidance counsellors and deans of discipline."
Selvin Russell, vice-president of the St Mary Parish Development Committee, commended the organisers for delivering an informative and educational seminar.
He said: "I was very impressed by the attendance and participation of the younger folk. I hope there will be more things like this in the future, especially in the rural areas. I think the symposium will go a far way in helping to reduce crime and violence in the parish, and also give a more humanitarian spirit to men when they're associating with women."
Deputy Superintendent in charge of the CSSB Lorraine Elliston added: "I think both events went exceptionally well. We had a turnout of more than 200 people for the symposium, which is quite extraordinary, and were able to galvanise a lot of people, including quite a few men who came out in support of the mission to reduce violence against woman and girls."