"I’m a different woman now" - In Jamaica, survivors of violence are breaking free
CLARENDON, Jamaica - The night that 33-year-old Avorina’s Hall’s partner brutally attacked her, everything faded to white before she slumped to the floor unconscious. It marked an escalation in the ongoing abuse.
When she woke up, Ms. Hall knew he would return, intent on killing her. So, she huddled in the front room with her three sons, a heavy wardrobe braced against the door. He came back, but the wardrobe prevailed.
Three nights later, he returned again.
“He wanted to sleep with me and when I told him 'over my dead body', he got upset and threw the TV off the wall and took a hammer to the serger,” she remembers. The serger, a specialty sewing machine that gives a finished look to her clothing, is her pride and joy. In a rage, he scattered its parts across her dressmaking studio.
Ms. Hall was enrolled in a small business and life skills programme under the Spotlight Initiative, where she was learning about her rights, how to grow her tailoring business and how to deal with gender-based violence.
The women’s economic empowerment programme is implemented by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Multi Country Office in Jamaica in partnership with municipal corporations in Clarendon and St Thomas. It has trained 80 survivors like Ms. Hall, with the aim of establishing economic independence so that they have control over their lives and futures.
“I never knew there was something called financial abuse. I was going through all the five [types of] abuse, but I never knew [until the training]. He called me names, made me feel less than. Spotlight Initiative helped a lot."
Reflecting on her choice of partner, Ms. Hall points to a childhood in which a series of caregivers abused her sexually and physically, and the worthlessness she felt as a result.
The 2016 Women's Health Survey revealed that more than one in four women in Jamaica aged 15 to 64 years have experienced physical and sexual violence by a partner.
“When I joined Spotlight Initiative, it opened my eyes to many things as it has helped me to push my business further... As women, we learned we can be independent and help ourselves financially.”
Today, the abusive partner is out of her life and business has never been better. She even employs another person.
"Business is good. The community challenged me … I never knew I could do wedding dresses, jackets, suits. I've only been to high school, I've never gone anywhere else to learn sewing, so that’s when I realized it’s a gift,” she says.
“Through Spotlight Initiative I've realized that there are great things within me.. With the grant [I bought] another sewing machine [and] I would like to employ more people in need, train them free of cost and employ them afterward."
"People can see the difference within me because the woman you see today, you wouldn’t have seen two years ago. It’s a different, different me. The group [of fellow students] has opened my eyes."
Text by UNDP Communications Analyst, Gillian Scott. Thanks to UNDP Spotlight Initiative programme manager, Shellian Forrester and the teams from St Thomas and Clarendon Municipal Corporation and Clarendon Parish Development Benevolent Society for facilitating the interviews.