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(The Honourable Olivia Grange (centre), Minister of Culture, Youth and Sport, Jamaica, and (3rd from right) Director UNFPA Sub Regional Office for the Caribbean, Ms. Geeta Sethi with regional Parliamentarians, other representatives of UN agencies, governmental departments and partner organisations at the November 8-9 Regional Consultation of Parliamentarians on gender-based violence prevention in Jamaica. Photo: UN Women)
Regional Parliamentarians came together at the Terra Nova Hotel in Jamaica to look at ways in which they can lead policy and community interventions to end violence against women and girls.
Themed, "Building Political Will to End Gender-Based Violence", the November 9-10 meeting is one of the initiatives in support of the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon's UNiTE to End Violence against Women Campaign.
Coordinated by the Jamaica-based United Nations Population Fund Caribbean Sub Regional Office (UNFPA), the Regional Consultation of Parliamentarians is a collaborative effort involving several partners including UN Women, the Inter-American Parliamentary Group on Population and Development (IAPG), the Caribbean Network of Parliamentarians on Population and Development (CNPPD), and the CARICOM Secretariat.
Specifically, the two-day meeting seeks to support the UNiTE campaign targetted Outcome 1 - the adoption and enforcement of national laws to address and punish all forms of violence against women and girls and Outcome 3 - strengthening data collection on the prevalence of violence against women and girls.
Addressing the opening ceremony, the Jamaica Minister of Youth, Sports and Culture, the Honourable Olivia Grange stressed that gender based violence is a grave problem affecting all cultures, societies and regions.
"Gender based violence is a violation of human rights that affects males and females - but most of the victims are women and girls. It takes many forms - physical, sexual, psychological and economic", the Minister said.
Minister Grange reported that in Jamaica in 2010, more than 600 women were victims of rape and 500 victims of carnal abuse. "These cases aside from the untold hurt that they caused the victims and their families also put a burden on a health care system that is already struggling to deal with unpreventable health issues. Gender based violence also affects the rate of HIV infections in our societies", the Minister added.
The Consultation also builds on one of the actions agreed to at the 2010 Caribbean launch of the campaign, which calls on national parliamentarians to join in the leadership of the Campaign. It focuses on sharing best practices to end gender based violence and looking at new strategies including working with men, cultural artistes and other opinion shapers.
Minister Grange exhorted her regional Parliamentary colleagues to commit to taking a firm stance at the policy level to combat the problem. Additionally she said there was need to engage partners and synchronise energies towards ending the scourge of violence against women and girls on Caribbean societies.
United Nations Resident Coordinator for Jamaica, Mr. Arun Kashyap told the Parliamentarians that they were vital leaders to make the theory of change a reality.
"We recognise that the countries in the region are adapting national laws to address and punish all forms of violence against women and girls. The Caribbean, in fact is distinguished by its leadership among nations for ratification of international agreements that aim to eliminate violence against women and girls.
While ratification is a vital and necessary first step, it will only become sufficient through strengthening State accountability and its efficient and effective enforcement. While this would require political will and engagement of men as provocative partners and agents of change, it would necessitate a social strategy that empowers women in achieving comprehensively a high quality life, sustainable livelihoods and equal opportunities to eliminate all facets of discrimination", the Resident Coordinator added.
Campaign Manager for the Latin America and Caribbean UNiTE Secretariat Nadine Gasman told the participants: "We are especially concerned in this region by the fact that besides having high rates of all types of violence we have in Latin America, the highest rates of femicide - where thousands of women are killed because they are women with an increasing degree of cruelty and sadism and because 3 of the top 10 recorded rape rates in the world occur in the Caribbean.
"It is important for the Secretary-General's UNiTE Campaign to have the opportunity to interact with you, officials elected by the people, working for the wellbeing, security and exercise of all human rights of all the people," Ms. Gasman added.
The participating Parliamentarians are representing the territories of host country Jamaica, Anguilla, Antigua and Barbuda, Aruba, the Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Bermuda, Curacao, Dominica, Grenada, Montserrat, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Suriname and Trinidad and Tobago.
For further information please contact: United Nations Population Fund Advocacy/Communications Advisor, Althea Buchanan at firstname.lastname@example.org or Office tel: (878)906-8591/2 or UN Women Communications Specialist, Sharon Carter-Burke at email@example.com.
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