A Force To Reckon With

Image of Catherine Sealy

NOT many groups in St. Lucia could lay claim to attracting national attention immediately after being formed. Truth be told, no group has been able to do so in recent times except one, Raise Your Voice St. Lucia Inc.

Founded in February 2013 with seven members all with one purpose, to advocate on behalf of the vulnerable women and children who are victims of violence in St. Lucia, the group, within four short years, has exploded into being the voice for more than just women and children who are victims of violence.

Image of Catherine Sealy
Catherine Sealy

In fact, Raise Your Voice St. Lucia Inc. seems to have out distanced the government departments of social justice, human services and family affairs in terms of public visibility. Not only is the group today assisting families and individuals who have been victims of violence, by providing counselling and moral and legal support in the country’s courts of justice, they have done other things that have raised their profile in the community even higher.

For instance, has a government department ever organized a march to say no to violence against women and children and to ensure swift access to justice? Raise Your Voice St. Lucia Inc., accomplished that on 25 November, 2015.

Catherine Sealys, one of the seven founding members, said she and her colleagues saw a need for the formation of such a group as social services provided for by the state were not reaching far enough. To underscore this, she stated that the US$25,000 budget for operational expenses the group received per year from the United Nations Women in Geneva disappears long before the year ends.

“We provide counselling services for clients. This has grown tremendously, so much so that it is out of control in terms of the number of persons who are in need of that service. We are getting more and more people in need of counselling. We do not turn anyone away,” Sealys said.

The group’s track record has even impressed the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Social Justice, Donovan Williams who has, just recently, describe it as “an organization of action, tangible action.”

This epitaph concisely captures what the group is all about as its record sheet will show.

From securing a perpetual donation of medicines and medical supplies from AmeriCares, working in partnership with St. Jude Hospital and the Procurement Unit of the Ministry of Health for use at all public health facilities, to presenting a declaration for action to former Prime Minister Dr. Kenny Anthony recommending changes to specific pieces of legislation to realize gender equality and to minimize violence against women and children, Raise Your Voice St. Lucia Inc. has been churning out project after project in support of St. Lucians in need of counselling, protection from abuse of any kind, medicines, housing assistance, employment, empowerment, training and a host of other things.

One of the group’s latest projects is rather ambitious, the raising funds to establish a Rape Crisis Center for St. Lucia. And with everything the group puts its shoulder to, this one is being tackled with a passion.

“We have raised about $54, 000 for this project,” Sealys said.

Another project is sourcing monies from the Australian High Commission to host a training workshop for personnel in the Department of Human Services in several areas, one area being case management.

The group’s members, just last month, were able to get Baroness Anelay of St. Johns, Minister of State for the Foreign and Commonwealth Office of the United Kingdom to assist them in their quest to improve services to women and children who are victims of violence. This assistance came in the form of a grant for a two-day training and sensitization programme for front line social service agency employees who interface with victims of violence.

Another project being worked on is funding for a school feeding programme for select schools for one year.

But being bold, fearless in promoting its agenda means that the group, at some point, would step on toes, primarily those of the government departments charged with dispensing the “cure” for the social injustices that abound in the country.

This affront, although not done deliberately on the part of the group, could not have been helped as the various social services department of the government have repeatedly been loudly proclaimed to be poorly conducting their business by many citizens, who have had to take to the media for some form of restoration of their hurt.

That there was justification for the group’s constant hammering of the government departments mandated to deal with the social injustices plaguing many of the country’ underprivileged, unprotected and poor citizens can be seen in Williams statement that his Ministry is encouraged that the group is not just about talk. He even extended his Ministry’s hand of friendship as a partner and collaborator in the fight against the social ills plaguing the country.

“There is no resting for us. There is too much to do in this country with respect to providing the type of services our people need,” Sealys said.

The group at present comprises 11 persons on its Board and about 19 volunteers.

Micah George is an established name in the journalism landscape in St. Lucia. He started his journalism tutelage under the critical eye of the Star Newspaper Publisher and well known journalist, Rick Wayne, as a freelancer. A few months later he moved to the Voice Newspaper under the guidance of the paper’s recognized editor, Guy Ellis in 1988.

Since then he has remained with the Voice Newspaper, progressing from a cub reporter covering court cases and the police to a senior journalist with a focus on parliamentary issues, government and politics. Read full bio...

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