Dial 914: Domestic abuse emergency number to be introduced

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In Guyana, over 210,000 or 3 in 5 women have experienced some form of violence either sexually or physically; these startling figures were revealed by Dr. Vindhya Persaud, Minister of Human Services and Social Security during the virtual launch of the SPOTLIGHT INITIATIVE last evening, October 31, 2020 on NCN Channel 11.

The United Nations/European Union funded initiative – intended to help over 600,000 women, girls, men and boys – will assist the Ministry to respond and address the scourge of all forms of violence against women and girls. A budgetary allocation of 4.5 million Euros will be used to invest in strategic and catalytic interventions to address the root causes and holistically address gender-based violence and family violence over a three year-period.

“We need to ask ourselves why violence continues to be pervasive and persistent. The heartrending cries of women who are beaten, chopped, stabbed, raped, brutalized and yes, killed in this most horrific form of gender oppression has propelled us to embark on a pivotal partnership with the UN and EU to significantly improve the conditions of women, foster their empowerment  and work to prevent and eliminate all forms of violence,” Hon Persaud said in her message.

Minister Persaud and Ms Tanaka signed the Spotlight Initiative Country Document (Ministry of Human Services and Social Security Photo/November 01, 2020)

The Country document, which signals the commitment of the Spotlight Initiative was signed between Minster Persaud and UN Resident Coordinator to Guyana, Mikiko Tanaka. The signing was witnessed by EU Ambassador to Guyana, Fernando Ponz Canto.

Emergency number to be launched

Minster Persaud also announced that a 914 helpline will be introduced by the Ministry to facilitate the reporting of domestic and sexual violence.

“I cannot over-emphasize how important it is to report every incidence of violence to stem the relentless tide,” she added.

The introduction of the three digit emergency number, Minister Persaud stated, will open access to new initiatives that link survivors to  agencies, advocacy programs, referral pathways, microenterprise industries, public-private skills employment database matching and offer immediate help “to extrapolate them from violent situations.”

The signing was witnessed by EU Ambassador to Guyana, Fernando Ponz Canto (Ministry of Human Services and Social Security Photo/November 01, 2020)

“It is perhaps the most obvious manifestation of deep imbalances of power in our society. The vulnerabilities epitomized through financial dependence, lower employment, the culture of silence in the face of violence, and tangible insecurities, particularly during a crisis, when vulnerabilities are at their peak and protections at their lowest point will be addressed through the Spotlight Initiative,” she noted.

Against this backdrop, the Human Services Minister underscored the importance ending the culture of silence and the acceptance of violence against women and girls wherever it exists.

“Violence, whether it affects women and girls, or men and boys, is unacceptable. This our chance to tangibly change the lives of women and girls as we promised at the  Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women and the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, 25 years ago,” Minster Persaud further stated.

Meanwhile, His Excellency Dr Irfaan Ali endorsed the Initiative and expressed gratitude to the   EU and the UN for their tremendous support and “looks forward to the implementation of this initiative to bring about measureable outcomes in the fight to eradicate all forms of violence against women and girls.”

Other notable speakers included First Lady Arya Ali;, Ms Tanaka; HE Ponz Canto;  Marjeta Jager, EU Deputy Director-General for the Director for International Cooperation and Development (DEVCO) and Amina Mohammed, Deputy Secretary-General of the United Nations. (Ministry of Human Services and Social Security Press Release)

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