BRIDGETOWN, Barbados - As Eastern Caribbean governments work to build back better in the wake of COVID-19, the United Nations and the European Union continue to scale up efforts to foster gender equality and respond to family violence through the launch of a USD$12.7M Spotlight Regional Caribbean Programme. This is part of the EUR 500 million with which the European Union is financing the Spotlight Initiative in all continents.
A high-level virtual signing ceremony was today held to launch the Caribbean-wide Regional Programme, that aims to eliminate all forms of violence against women and girls (VAWG) and complements existing Spotlight country programmes in Grenada, Jamaica, Haiti, Trinidad and Tobago, and Guyana. It brought together CARICOM and OECS leaders, representatives of the United Nations System and the European Union, as well as development partners, and civil society.
The Regional Spotlight Initiative entitled: “Strengthening Regional Cooperation to Prevent and Respond to Family Violence in the Caribbean” is being jointly implemented by four UN agencies - UNDP, UNICEF, UN Women, and UNFPA - and Heads of these funds and programmes, along with the UN Resident Coordinator, Didier Trebucq signed the joint programme document on behalf of the UN; while the OECS’ Head of Human and Social Development Cluster, Dr. Carlene Radix and CARICOM Deputy Secretary General, Ambassador Manorma Soeknandan did so on behalf of these regional institutions. The document was also signed by Luis Maia on behalf of the European Union.
In delivering Opening Remarks, UN Resident Coordinator for Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean, Didier Trebucq said the flagship partnership between the UN and the EU, in collaboration with regional partners and civil society organisations, sought to address family violence in all its forms. He explained: “Recent studies published by UN Women for Grenada, Guyana, Jamaica, Suriname and Trinidad and Tobago show that the average lifetime prevalence of intimate partner violence is around 45 per cent in these countries. There is also significant risk for women who are victims of domestic abuse being killed by intimate partners and family members. We are all aware that the failure to frontally address these issues, by protecting and empowering women and girls, can and will derail the achievement of all SDGs, not only the SDG 5.”
Head of Development Cooperation, Delegation of the European Union to Barbados, the Eastern Caribbean States, the OECS and CARICOM/CARIFORUM, Luis Maia, in delivering remarks, reiterated the European Union’s strong commitment to supporting gender equality and women's empowerment in the Caribbean. “This is why we want to put a spotlight on this scourge and help women and girls to step out into the light. Indeed, it is time to leave violence behind. The commitment of the European Union delegation is not just lip service. The EU has invested an initial global commitment of 500 million Euros The Spotlight Initiative is also a clear manifestation of our key support to multilateralism , to the UN reform and the Caribbean to which a total of 50 million Euros has been committed towards efforts across the region.”
In addressing the ceremony Deputy Secretary General of CARICOM, Ambassador Manorma Soeknandan noted that while Grenada, Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago and Suriname were in line with the global average for intimate partner violence, in Guyana one in every two women between 15 and 64 years faced abuse, and 50% are suffering in silence. “Spotlight is an exceptional, ground-breaking initiative, and a comprehensive programme that will span the next three years and should positively impact the lives of thousands of our Caribbean families. The Programme will complement the investments of Regional Institutions and contribute to the scale, sustainability, visibility and lessons learned, as it addresses specific regional challenges that inhibit progress including the prevention of and response to violence against women and girls,” she said.
Head of Human and Social Development Cluster OECS , Dr. Carlene Radix, said the OECS was excited to partner on the initiative that would not only address the root causes of violence and the impacts on women and girls, but would also benefit men and boys across the region. “The OECS will focus on the Regional Component and will prioritize regional advocacy with regional institutions including Civil Society Organizations (CSO) networks- watchdogs, transferring lessons learned and engaging in South-South and triangular cooperation. It is intended to address specific regional barriers/challenges/bottlenecks that inhibit progress on the prevention of and response to violence against women and girls.”
President of the Caribbean Institute of Women In leadership, Lady Anande Trotman-Joseph, underscored the correlation between violence against women and girls and institutional stereotypes and patriarchal systems. She challenged: “This Spotlight programme highlights that we all have a part to play by sharing and interrogating the existing definitions, experiences, research and empirical data which determine the gaps and impediments that prevent the effective eradication of VAW&G. Incidences of VAW&G are heightened by intersecting vulnerabilities, multiple discriminations, in-accessibilities to justice, and relatively low conviction rates for offenders, which all result in real socio-economic exclusion experienced by so many of the region’s women and girls.”
Over the next three years participating agencies and Governments will work assiduously to respond to family violence in the Caribbean through legislative and other measures. The programme will increase the capacity of regional institutions , women’s movements and civil society organisations, increase functional cooperation across the region, inform public policy, support evidence-based prevention programming, and foster greater accountability. It will also enhance the delivery of essential services for survivors and strengthen data collection and analysis on VAWG.
In wrapping up the signing ceremony, UN Women Multi Country Office Representative Tonni Brodber concluded: “It has been 25 years of the Beijing platform for action; 15 years of the Security Council Resolution 1325 and last year was 25 years of Belém do Pará. We have the framework. As a region we are transcending physical and language barriers to implement the framework to reduce violence against women and girls within the context of family violence. This year the UN as a system marks 75 years, last year UNFPA celebrated 50 years, in November will be 55 years of UNDP, next year marks 75 years of UNICEF, and this year UN Women is 10. We all stand ready to draw on all of our expertise in partnership to deliver for women and girls in the Caribbean."
The Global Spotlight Programme was launched in September 2017 to support programming in Asia, Africa, Latin America, the Pacific, and the Caribbean. The major investment in gender equality was designed to make a transformative difference in the lives of women and girls all around the world and contribute to the attainment of more equitable and sustainable societies for all.
Carol A. Gaskin
Development Coordination Officer, Programme Communications and Advocacy
Resident Coordinator Office
UN Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean
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UN Women Multi Country Office - Caribbean
UN Barbados and Eastern Caribbean
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Press and Information Officer
Delegation of the European Union to Barbados, the Eastern Caribbean States, the OECS and CAROCOM/CARIFORUM
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Photo: Left to right, Luis Maia, Head of Development Cooperation, Delegation of the European Union to Barbados, the Eastern Caribbean States, the OECS and CARICOM/CARIFORUM; Didier Trebucq, UN Resident Coordinator; Tonni-Ann Brodber, UN Women Multi Country Office Representative.