NIA CHARLESTOWN NEVIS — The following is an address by Hon. Hazel Brandy-Williams, Junior Minister of Gender Affairs on Nevis on the occasion of International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women observed on November 25, 2021.
November 25th is recognised as the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, and December 10th is recognized as International Human Rights Day. Across the entire globe, the period that spans these two days of special observance are uniquely set aside as the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence. This year, 2021 is the 30th anniversary of this global observance.
The 16 Days from the 25th of November to December 10th are earmarked to emphasise our collective efforts to end violence in our homes, schools, workplaces, communities and nation. The theme for this year’s campaign is “Orange the World: End Violence Against Women Now!” This theme carries with it the force of finality, not eventuality but enough is enough, and the impetuous of immediacy. We must, as a community, take action now!
This is, of course, gravely important as according to the United Nations, “Globally, an estimated 736million women – almost one in three – have been subjected to intimate partner violence, non-partner sexual violence, or both at least once in their lifetime.”
One exacerbating factor of gender-based violence is the dreaded plague of the COVID-19 pandemic. Lockdowns and extended curfews have left victims stranded with their abusers. An increase in unemployment has amplified economic dependence leaving victims reliant on their abusers. This has been evident, even here, in our country, where cases of domestic violence went from a total of 87 in 2019 to a distressing 357 in 2020, when the pandemic reached our shores.
We are still not safe from the lingering effects of COVID-19, as in just the first three quarters of 2021 our Federation has recorded 443 domestic violence cases.
We must all awake and collectively move to end gender-based violence now! As former UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon puts it: “There is one universal truth, applicable to all countries, cultures and communities: violence is never acceptable, never excusable, never tolerable.”
Let me make an appeal to our friends, brothers and sisters who are currently suffering abuse. You are not alone. The entire Department of Gender Affairs located on Government Road, opposite the hospital in the GMBC Building is dedicated to serving you and walking with you through this struggle. You can call for help at 469-5521, extension 6750 or 662-5492.
For those who are fortunate enough not to be personally affected by the verbal onslaught and vicious blows of gender-based violence, we cannot sit idly by. No longer can we say it is his business but not mine. No longer can we use our phones to record incidences of violence rather than for reaching the police. No longer can we laugh rather than lend a helping hand for violence will not end on its own; it must be stamped out from the heart of our society.
It is Dr. Martin Luther King who reminds us of the ultimate weakness of violence: It multiplies evil and violence in the universe but it doesn’t solve the problems.
As we endeavour to build a nation of solutions, the Department of Gender Affairs has, throughout this year undertaken training empowerment programmes such as fish pot making, plumbing, fruit carving and business training sessions, all in an effort to make our people more economically independent and less susceptible to the lures of abusive predators.
During the 16 Days of Activism, we hosted the Better Relations Seminar on November 25th to give men and women the opportunity to come together, ventilate issues and discuss possible solutions. We will work with partners such as the Federal Ministry of Gender Affairs and non-governmental organisations to engage the public through televised panel discussions and on-the-street interviews to give greater awareness to the serious and often hidden issue of intimate partner violence.
Importantly, we invite the public to join us for the Official Federal Launch of this year’s campaign against Gender-Based Violence which will take place on Friday, November 26th at 4 p.m. on the Villa Grounds in Charlestown. We must join our voices to say “No to violence!”
Friday, December 10th will be Orange Day, another opportunity for the general public to join the cause. We invite all to show support for victims and to send a clear message to perpetrators by colouring Nevis orange.
In the words of Nelson Mandela, “Great anger and violence can never build a nation.” As we work hand-in-hand to build our country, we must equip our men and women with the requisite skills, education, and values so that they would choose to stamp out violence rather than create it.
Join us as we embrace the theme of this year’s campaign and End Violence Against Men and Women!