PRESS RELEASE – MRS. Ione Erlinger Ford, nee St. Helen, who died five years ago this week, was born in St. Lucia, then migrated to Canada and eventually had to return to St. Lucia to find her true calling.
She got intimately involved in the St. Lucia Business and Professional Women’s Club (BPWC) which sought to elevate the living standards of St. Lucian women during the early 80s.
It was during that period that she became aware of the massive problem of domestic violence which plagued many of our females, and this eventually pushed her to devote the rest of her life to ensuring that something was done to remedy the situation.
She was of the firm belief that St. Lucia had the capacity to, and should be making better legal provisions to assist its battered and disadvantaged women. As a result, she enlisted into a fight that would help to alleviate the prevalence of domestic abuse perpetrated against women.
As fate would have it, in a move that seemed to say that it had become necessary to give more tangible support to her advocacy, St. Lucia began experiencing a number of brutal female deaths and rapes at the hands of male abusers, and the public outcry became deafening.
As a result, men, women and children began demonstrating their intolerance to the prevalence of domestic violence.
Mrs. Ford was able to get many women to open up to her about their domestic situations, and slowly she and other members of the BPWC came to the realization that St. Lucia needed them to ensure that change came about for the average St. Lucian female and her family.
The lady became a tireless advocate for the elimination of domestic violence, and with the help of a few well-placed friends, she began bombarding Government, NGO’s and private sector offices to secure a better lot for the poor defenseless and abused women who were desperately in search of help.
After knocking on doors and mobilizing women all over St. Lucia, officialdom began to take note, and she eventually saw the implementation of a Women’s Desk in the Ministry of Community Development in 1986.
Two years later, the St. Lucia Crisis Centre opened its doors to assist battered women and their children, especially those who did not know how to represent themselves in seeking redress.
She was able to drum up even more support for her adopted cause and in 1994 The Family Court Act was introduced.
That institution was officially opened in 1997 and continues to make a major contribution to the improvement of family life in St. Lucia.
The Domestic Violence Prevention Act came in 1995 and the Attachment of earnings for maintenance purposes followed in 1996.
The Shelter for Abused Women and Children was finally opened in 2001 — and St. Lucian women felt that they had found a shoulder to lean on in times of crisis.