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GEORGETOWN, GUYANA. On the occasion of International Women’s Day, which is being observed under the theme “Gender Equality today for a Sustainable tomorrow”, the European Union/United Nations Spotlight Initiative (SI) in Guyana wishes to recognise the efforts of all women and girls who are contributing their innovative ideas and efforts toward creating a sustainable future.
Even as this recognition is given, much work is still required to achieve true gender equality, particularly with regard to Gender-Based Violence (GBV). Women and girls remain one of the most vulnerable groups globally. In Guyana, the Spotlight Initiative (SI) to eliminate violence against Women and Girls continues to support the national response to address GBV issues in Guyana.
To date, key programme partnerships were established with the Government of Guyana through the Ministry of Human Services and Social Security (MHSSS) as well as partnerships with eight civil society organisations (CSOs) that are instrumental in implementing the programme in communities. These CSOs have lauded the programme for filling major gaps as it relates to gender-based issues in Guyana since its establishment, including creating increased access, reach and referral of GBV services to persons in need.
Partnerships and results
The MHSSS and UNICEF conducted research on New and Emerging Forms of Violence and a Review of the Domestic Violence and Sexual Offences Legislation, to support the base needed for driving reforms on domestic violence. Based on this foundational work, a new draft Domestic Violence Bill 2021 was proposed which will seek to strengthen the current framework and in 2022, the Ministry is expected to extend the recommended reforms and propose a new Family Violence law (inclusive of intimate partner violence). Added to this, the EU-UN Initiative will support a new legislation on harassment.
Further, with the University of Guyana, to build institutional capacity a specialised course on addressing family and gender-based violence was drafted titled “Resilience against and Disruption of Gender-Based Violence”. This course is an introductory course that raises awareness on Gender-Based Violence (GBV), focusing on its causes and consequences and methods of intervention towards human resiliency and social change. The course content covers global and regional issues related to GBV and offers a unique local overview and intervention mechanisms that centre human resilience as the outcome. The course is expected to start in 2022. In partnership with the MHSSS, a Plan of Action on GBV is also being drafted and a review of the Social Protection Framework in relation to Domestic Violence is also being done. Both are expected to be completed in 2022.
In March 2021, a GBV application was created through a collaborative effort between the Ministry of Human Services and Social Security and the Guyana Spotlight Initiative. The “iMatter” app was created following consultation with GBV activist Akola Thompson, while Techlify Inc. built the app under the guidance of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and the MHSSS. The app provides information on GBV and GBV-related services as well as supports users in being linked directly to the country’s dedicated 914 toll-free GBV hotline. The GBV App is available on both Google Play (as iMatter) and Apple Store (as iMattergy).
GBV survivors, persons at risk of GBV, and other vulnerable persons across Guyana will be supported with strengthened access to free legal services through the launch of the Legal Pro-bono 500 Initiative. These services will be available to all eligible persons until the end of 2022.
In August 2021, the COPSQUAD2000 Initiative was launched through a joint partnership among the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), the MHSSS, the Ministry of Home Affairs, and the Guyana Police Force (GPF) and aims to build the capacity of GPF officers to effectively respond to GBV cases. 5,199 police officers from all divisions are expected to be trained by the end of the programme.
In partnership with the MHSSS, the Spotlight Initiative began work on the Foundations Programme with UN Women, which aims to empower young people to prevent GBV by understanding the root causes and creating a network of young people who will advocate for non-violent relationships. The first step of this programme involved the training of trainers (ToT) to deliver the curriculum to young people. Twenty-one persons participated in the ToT programme, which was delivered by experts in implementing the Foundations Programme in the Caribbean. These persons were selected from a wide cross-section of stakeholder groups, which included the Civil Society National Reference Group (CSNRG), MoHSSS, Ministry of Education (MoE), Ministry of Culture Youth and Sports (MoCYS), Faith-based organisations, Community Leaders and young influencers.
To support the availability of quality, disaggregated and globally comparable data on different forms of violence against women and girls in line with international standards to inform laws, policies and programmes, 122 Representatives from Government Ministries, the Judiciary, Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions, CSOs, Neighbourhood Democratic Councils and Amerindian Village Councils from the target communities benefitted from capacity building in the collection, analyses and use of data on violence against women and girls facilitated by the United Nations Development Programme.
Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) in the field
The CSOs have conducted awareness and sensitisation efforts with community members and worked with community leaders and residents on intervention and prevention programs. Psychosocial services were provided to over 2217 beneficiaries, including survivors of GBV in regions 1, 4, 5, and 7. This included counselling and forensic interviews for survivors of GBV as well as referrals for other supportive services, community-based awareness and advocacy initiatives.
Youth Challenge Guyana has been working in Baramita, Region 1 under the Spotlight Initiative for the past eight months. In addition to the sensitisation efforts, the group has also developed a manual targeting ways of engaging with young people in the community through awareness campaigns, life skills training and discussing triggering behaviours that could contribute to GBV, such as substance abuse.
Through a collaborative effort of the Spotlight Initiative, the Child Protection Agency of the MHSSS and ChildLink Inc., two Child Advocacy Centres were established in Region 6; the first such facilities established in Region 6. The centres focus on trauma-based counselling for child survivors of sexual abuse and their families as well as support that would aid access to justice for survivors and recovery. So far, over 125 forensic interviews were conducted and more than 136 cases of child sexual abuse have been supported through interventions at the centres.
In the communities of Matthew’s Ridge, Region 1 and in Batavia and Waramadong, in Region 7, gatekeeper groups were established to provide safe spaces for women and children. Residents trained to administer various GBV support services conduct awareness and sensitisation outreaches to empower women and youths in their communities. To date, there are a combined total of 66 members.
Over 300 persons including Government officers, community leaders, community small businesses, civil society organisations, faith-based leaders, and the leadership of spotlight target communities were trained in varying aspects of GBV support services as part of capacity building exercises. These organizations have all lauded the Spotlight Initiative’s ability to bring greater visibility to all the matters surrounding GBV and create the opportunity to work with people in remote territories that were previously unreachable as two of the programme’s greatest strengths. In the new year, The collaborative work with the IPs will aim to continue the positive trajectory that has thus far been seen in the fight against gender-based violence in Guyana.
About the Spotlight Initiative
The Spotlight Initiative is a global initiative of the United Nations which has received generous support from the European Union. Its aim is to eliminate all forms of violence against women and girls. Its investments across more than 25 countries are addressing legislative and policy gaps, strengthening institutions, promoting gender-equitable attitudes, and providing quality services for survivors. Interventions are also strengthening systems for collecting data on violence against women and girls and women’s movements. Learn more at www.spotlightinitiative.org.