SAINT Lucia along with other members of the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) is promoting a thorough “Know Your Rights” campaign – which is a project aimed at combatting gender-based violence, and violence generally in the sub-region and further afield.
According to the organisers, this nationwide communication campaign aims to raise awareness among the public, particularly among women and young girls in Saint Lucia who are victims of violence.
The project is being funded by the French Government, and will run for a two-year period.
The French endorsed the campaign, on the heels of Saint Lucia’s enactment of the Domestic Violence Act of 2022, which is regarded as a progressive law designed to step up the fight against domestic violence and provide legal and safety support for survivors.
“This is an important day for a common cause that we on the French side share deeply with the authorities …which is the fight against gender-based violence,” said the Ambassador of France to Saint Lucia, the OECS and Barbados His Excellency Francis Etienne.
“We know how much damage that domestic gender-based violence can cause, we know what damages it is causing and we have to come together to fight against this kind of violence,” he told the gathering, at a media launch, this week.
Ambassador Etienne recalled that the launching of the Programme, in May, also had a launch of the 16 days of activism. He said, the United Nations (UN) international programme aims at raising awareness “to make the people committed to the fight against violence”.
He said the French were committed to collaborating with the government and people of Saint Lucia and provide support to the NGOs and other groups “committed for years now, in the fight against violence.”
The ambassador stressed that it was a global issue “that we share. We have the same issue in Martinique and Guadeloupe, and we are brothers and sisters in this fight.”
The 16 days of activism campaign started this week. It entails the use various communication tools and media: billboards, information kits, debates on TV and radio programmes, social media and so on.
Organizers say, another major highlight of the campaign will be the observance of International Women’s Rights Day on 8th March, 2024.
“Gender- based violence is something that has affected our society for many, many years and not just in Saint Lucia, but in the wider Caribbean and all over the world,” declared Gender Affairs Minister Dr. Virgina Albert-Poyotte.
The minster noted that gender-based violence affects both males and females.
“The government of Saint Lucia is also very mindful of (concerning) the issue of violence, whether it be gender-based violence, domestic violence, or violence generally,” she explained. “It is something that we detest.”
Added Poyotte: “I am very pleased that in the coming months and for the next two years, we will be out there educating our Saint Lucian people, the young, the men and women as to why we have to live in a peaceful society.
“We must not destroy each other, we have to live as friends, family and enjoy a very productive life.”
It has been ascertained that domestic violence portrays a significant societal stigma in Saint Lucia, leading victims to hesitate reporting abuse by their close partners or family members. Regionally, it has been noted that violence against women must not be taken lightly.
According to UN Women, almost one in two women have experienced at least one form of violence in her lifetime in the region and almost half of Caribbean women (46%) have experienced at least one form of intimate partner violence. Worldwide, the figure is 30%.
This initiative presents an opportunity to focus on the various avenues accessible to victims, including shelters, a national hotline, formal complaints, restraining orders, legal assistance via legal aid, psychosocial support provided by Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) and additional resources.
Jassica St Rose, a representative of United and Strong stated that very soon several billboards will be on display, “and especially in the rural communities where it is so important to spread the message and to spread the awareness of gender-based violence”.
She said, as a CSO representing the LGBTQ community, it was equally important to note that intimate partner violence also exists among that group. “We have had a series of workshops, where we have been meeting and discussing ways to bring the project to be very effective …and to raise the awareness up until December ,10, which will be Human Rights Day.”
Project Manger for the Gender -Based Violence Project and representative of Unite Caribbean, Juliette Dargnies explained that the Know Your Rights campaign is aligned to the 16 days of activism.
She noted that the campaign was aimed primarily at raising awareness “and to offer the Saint Lucian people some tools …some tools about their rights, about the law and about what the state can offer to them with regards to the fight against Gender-Based violence and domestic violence.”