Spotlight Initiative transitions to new phase in Trinidad and Tobago

Aerial image of people waving in conference centre
Participants on Day 1 of the Spotlight Initiative Transition Conference. Photo: Spotlight Initiative
December 1, 2023

Spotlight Initiative achievements handed over to national stakeholders.

Minister in the Office of the Prime Minister - Gender and Child Affairs Division, Ayanna Webster-Roy, has committed to building on the UN Spotlight Initiative’s programmes and innovations to sustain collaboration that will end violence against women and girls. 

The Spotlight Initiative is the UN's effort to eliminate Gender-Based Violence (GBV), with  generous funding support from the European Union. After launching the Trinidad and Tobago edition of the programme in 2020, the Spotlight Initiative is now handing over its work to national authorities. 

Four smiling men and women in business attire
From left: Minister in the Office of the Prime Minister - Gender and Child Affairs, Ayanna Webster-Roy; Permanent Secretary in the Gender and Child Affairs Division, Vijay Gangapersad; UNDP Assistant Resident Representative, Sharifa Ali-Abdullah; and EU Ambassador to Trinidad and Tobago, Peter Cavendish. Photo: Spotlight Initiative

Spotlight hosted a two-day "transition" conference from November 28 to 29 with partners from Government, public sector, the international development community, civil society and private sector. Their dialogue focused on Spotlight's achievements in policy, programmes, systems, data, strengthened capacity and bridge-building collaborations. Participants discussed ways to sustain the momentum from Spotlight after the December 31st culmination of the project.

During her opening remarks, Minister Webster-Roy thanked the United Nations, the European Union and all of the implementing partners who collaborated to deliver the US $6 million programme. 

"The Spotlight Initiative has laid a solid foundation, but it is up to us as a society and as individuals to build upon it and sustain our efforts if we are to achieve the desired outcomes for women and girls," the Minister said. "I can assure you that the Division [of Gender and Child Affairs] is committed to working on the adaptation of the Initiative’s programmes and policies aimed at behaviour change and public awareness."

People on stage during panel discussion
Panellists discuss the achievements of the Spotlight Initiative in the area of law and policy. Photo: Spotlight Initiative

Minister Webster-Roy noted that her Ministry led the Spotlight Initiative effort to develop the National Strategic Action Plan. It was approved by Cabinet this year, and will guide Government's continued efforts on GBV prevention and response. 

National Spotlight Initiative Champion, Sharon Clark-Rowley, told the audience that the Spotlight Initiative's approach to breaking silos between different sectors working on GBV underscored how integral a "whole of society" approach should be.

“All hands are now on deck, the government, our health and social services, our police, our justice system, our international partners, civil society, our local communities, and of course our men. We are all change agents.”

Participants in the Spotlight Initiative highlighted some of the major accomplishments of the programme, including the training of over 500 judicial actors on gender protocol, completion of a landmark study on social norms, the creation of a Joint Workplace Policy on GBV and sexual harassment, the training of more than 400 police officers in Gender-Responsive Policing, and the development of the country's first official framework to guide healthcare workers on treating survivors of GBV.

Two women greeting each other on stage.
Representative of the UN Women Multi-Country Office -Caribbean, Tonni Brodber, thanks National Champion of the Spotlight Initiative, Sharon Clark-Rowley. Photo: Spotlight Initiative

These efforts were led by the five UN agencies which implemented the programme: UNDP, UNFPA, UNICEF, UN Women and PAHO/WHO. Two additional UN agencies - UNHCR and ILO - also supported project rollout. 

UN Resident Coordinator, Joanna Kazana, lauded all of the partners who made the Spotlight Initiative what she dubbed "a movement of hearts and minds."

"The Spotlight Initiative would not be possible if it was not for the visionary investment by the European Union," she said. "I  thank the European Union Delegation in Trinidad and Tobago for its unrelenting commitment to this programme and to the partnership with the UN system. We are extremely proud of the achievements of our implementing partners across government, the public sector, civil society and the private sector, and we are grateful for their continuing commitment and leadership against GBV."

EU Ambassador to Trinidad and Tobago, Peter Cavendish, spoke of his admiration for the "stick-to-itiveness" of Trinidadians and Tobagonians as he recalled their commitment to overcoming the challenges entailed in implementing such an ambitious programme. He said the EU's investment "exemplifies the EU’s commitment to the development of Trinidad and Tobago over our 47 years of partnership." He encouraged the audience to take next steps in actioning some of the policies and programmes that Spotlight put in place, including through data collection, monitoring and reporting and stronger oversight of institutions to ensure accountability and transparency when dealing with survivors and perpetrators.

By Faine Richards 

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