Help is here! -CARICOM First Ladies, Spouses meet to design initiative for vulnerable groups

First Lady Sandra Granger

SPOUSES of Heads of Government of CARICOM leaders will meet today to discuss the ‘Every Caribbean Woman, Every Caribbean Child (ECWECC) initiative’ which seeks to provide opportunities to improve the lives of women, children and adolescents.The initiative focuses on four priority issues: teenage pregnancy; violence against women and children (including trafficking in persons); cervical cancer and mother to child transmission of HIV in the Caribbean.
The forum of the spouses will be the first event of a two day programme, which includes a Technical Meeting to hammer out specifics of the way forward for the initiative.
First Lady of Guyana, and wife of CARICOM’s present Chair, Sandra Granger explained that the initiative evolved out of the Every Woman, Every Girl (EWEG) Initiative of former United Nations Secretary-General Ban ki Moon.
She said that ECWECC took on board Caribbean realities, resulting in the four areas for priority intervention and the expanded focus to include the child, irrespective of gender.
Among those realities is the fact that the Caribbean has the second highest rate of teenage pregnancy in the world, after sub-Saharan Africa, with an estimated 20 percent giving birth before the age of 19.
Meanwhile, cervical cancer (a vaccine-preventable disease) was recorded to have been the second leading cause of cancer deaths among Caribbean women aged 15 to 49, accounting for 13 per cent of all cancer cases and 10.4 per cent of all cancer deaths.
Additionally, the high rate of violence against women and girls, which also involved trafficking in persons was pointed out as an area of concern. And sccording to Mrs. Granger, such trafficking was not limited to prostitution but included slave labour.
In light of these issues, the Forum on the ECWECC initiative is expected to identify specific actions and interventions to address the underlying factors, gaps and challenges associated with the priority areas.
In this process, it seeks to promote the synergies between national and regional agencies, programmes and policies; mobilise resources; and establish strategic partnerships for its interventions.
Guyana’s First Lady has identified partnerships as being one of the essential elements for a successful initiative.
Referring to the forum, she said “… invitees include regional and international partners who have expressed a willingness to come on board to assist…, providing resources, both financial and intellectual to push it [the initiative] forward”.
The Forum is funded by Gilead Sciences, Inc., and organized by the Office of the First Lady of Guyana in collaboration with the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Secretariat.
Its projected outputs include a summary report capturing the plans for the implementation of the initiative and the establishment of the Caribbean Network of First Ladies.
CARICOM Heads of Government endorsed the ECWECC initiative at their 37th Regular Meeting in 2016 in Guyana. The Report of the Forum is expected to be presented to them at their 28th Inter-Sessional Meeting which is currently taking place in Guyana.