THERE is need to focus on actions that aim to change cultural norms and attitudes that promote inequality, since it has been determined that violence against women and girls in Guyana, as in other regions of the world, is rooted in gender inequality.
Also, like many in countries that have made women’s rights systematic, social norms and gender attitudes have remained unchanged, even as women have increased their presence in public life. This is according to the findings of the recently released first report of a comprehensive examination of the nature and prevalence of violence against women and girls in Guyana. Titled `The Guyana Women’s Health and Life Experiences Survey 2018,’ the document is the result of a national mixed-methods study to better understand the magnitude of and women’s experiences with gender-based violence (GBV) in all of this country’s regions.
The study includes a comprehensive quantitative survey and in-depth qualitative study comprising focus group discussions and interviews with victims and key stakeholders. It was conducted with support from United Nations (UN) Women; the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP); the United States ; U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), in collaboration with the Global Women’s Institute of George Washington University and the University of Guyana.
The study also recommended that evidence-based programmes that have been shown to be successful in other areas to the multicultural Guyanese context, be adapted; that there be a review of local, regional and global initiatives, including those that target youth, persons with disabilities and men and boys, that have been demonstrated to change gender attitudes and norms and to decrease the inactivated polio vaccine (IPV) in the community; create national prevention programmes, deployed to all areas, to decrease the fragmentation of prevention programmes and to ensure that programme information reaches all sectors and locations with message consistency; for support of the transformation of gender norms through educational initiatives in primary, secondary, technical, vocational education and training (TVET), and tertiary-level education institutions; employ community-based programmes to discuss gender equality and violence in the public sphere and implement comprehensive, school-based interventions with the aim of shift attitudes and norms around gender roles.
Also, that policy requirements at all levels be developed with a gender perspective, particularly in the context of preventing GBV; an independent national task force for gender-based violence (GBV) should be created and funded; create multi-sectoral sub-committees (e.g. prevention, response, etc.) to decrease programmatic silos and uneven resource distribution and, establish a mandatory policy to include the institutional mechanisms for the advancement of women in all national policy recommendations.
The research further advocated the strengthening and expansion of existing bodies, policies and protocols that seek to address GBV through both prevention and response; creation of a national plan of action to create a time-bound plan to address and decrease violence against women and girls; increase professional education and monitoring of GBV response in all sectors to ensure consistency of service; finalise legally enforceable guidelines for GBV responders, particularly in investigation, confidentiality and referral protocols; develop resource networks of GBV responders to increase continuity of care between sectors; create a national information system to share information between sectors and regions. Also, that the GBV response coordination among health care, law enforcement, and social service sectors, and chief security officers (CSOs), particularly in the hinterland, be prioritized; and for the community capacity for non-formal support for victims, including awareness programming; material, social and spiritual support; and multiple entry points to formal sector services be developed..
It was suggested too that protective services such as shelter systems to all regions be expanded; alternatives to traditional shelters to better serve women and their children in all areas be considered; hinterland access to magistrates and other legal resources be reviewed, as well as, effects to seek opportunities for further research into the experience of violence, its aftermath and its effects in different settings and cultural groups, should be continued.
Minister of Social Protection, Amna Ally, in delivering the feature address at the launch of the report which took place at Cara Lodge Hotel on November 13, remarked: “It is a crucial and long overdue report on violence against our women and girls in Guyana. This report marks a huge advancement for women’s health and rights for the first time,” commented Minister of Social Protection, Amna Ally, as she delivered the key address at the launch.
“Many Guyanese women and children are suffering physical and mental hurt within their homes through verbal abuse, threats, harassment, bullying and violence. Yet too often fear and misplaced shame are preventing those victims from breaking the silence on which these forms of violence thrive. All of us owe it to the women who suffer from domestic violence and the women to step up, speak out and end domestic violence now.” Patriarchal norms in which the social status of men and boys is higher than that of women and girls, is said to be a primary contributory factor to violence against women and girls (VAWG).
She committed to ensure that attention be paid to the recommendations coming out of the research with a view to having them implemented, with collaboration from multi-sector agencies.